Several travelers have been scammed in Florida and it has become a major security issue in top destinations like Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Panama City. Rental scams are so popular in the state that cybersecurity experts are calling it the “Scam Capital of the World.”
A few days ago, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody issued an official warning for visitors, encouraging tourists to distrust certain websites, recognize red flags, and be careful when making an online reservation.
Moody said in a recent statement: “Florida is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the nation. Scammers will take advantage of this by creating fake vacation rental listings in hopes of stealing personal information and money. Whether you are traveling within the state or from out of state, make sure to take extra precautions when renting a vacation home to avoid being burned this summer vacation season.”
Last year, Florida received over 122 million visitors and this year tourists keep looking for beautiful beaches —despite the seaweed spreading across the coastlines—, nice weather, and great entertainment options. Over 100,000 visitors are soon expected for NASA’s Artemis 1 rocket launch at Kennedy Space Center.
Florida has a lot to offer travelers and visitors from all over the world and scammers are aware of this.
The “Scam Capital of the World”
Rental scams have expanded across the country, but seem to be way too common in Florida. According to the information shared by the New York Post, money has been stolen on short-term and long-term rentals.
The FBI data shows that in 2021 almost 11,600 people reported rental scams —around a $350,000 loss— and the number increased 64% compared to the previous year. 2022 doesn’t seem to be far from the trend.
Cybersecurity expert Hiram Del Amo said: “I’ve heard of several incidents where the family is ready for a vacation and they’ve actually flown into Miami or they’ve flown to Fort Lauderdale and then have actually approached the actual property. They’ve actually knocked on the door, and the owner has come out and said ‘you know, I don’t know anything about this’.”
Experts estimate that 1 in 5 online rentals are fake. There are certain platforms like Craigslist and Facebook where this type of fraud is more common.
And rental scams are not the only type of scam in Florida. Attorney Moody has recently shared a “Summer Scams Series” where she also warns visitors about summertime employment scams and HVAC scams.
Miami Spring’s official website also published valuable information warning citizens about telephone scams, kidnapping scams, lottery winner scams, fake police scams, and even romance scams.
Recommendations for Travelers
Rental scams can happen anywhere in the world, but travelers should be extra careful when traveling to Florida. Local authorities and cybersecurity experts have shared important advice and recommendations for visitors:
- Consider it a red flag when in order to book or pay for a listing it is required to leave the platform and visit another website.
- If something sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.
- Verify images by using a reverse image search, if they are linked to a different listing, it’s probably a scam.
- When suspicious, request more photos of the listing.
- Use trustworthy websites and check for reviews.
- Pay for rental with a credit card, this method can be easier to dispute in case of a fraudulent charge.
Regarding the last recommendation, Del Amo added: “Never pay cash, never pay through money order and never pay through any means that you can never retract that amount of money back. Because that’s what they’re looking for. They’re never going to ask you for a credit card because they know that that’s gonna get back charged.”
Victims of scams in Florida are encouraged to report them by calling Attorney General Moody’s office at 1(866) 9NO-SCAM or Fraud Hotline at 1-866-966-7226 and by filing a complaint at MyFloridaLegal.com
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com