SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- El Dorado County District Attorney's Office is warning people about an alarming rise in South Lake Tahoe luxury vacation rental scams they said is playing out on the Internet.
Officials said it happened at least 30 times since the first of the year.
Kathy Jo Liebhardt owns The Tahoe Destination Vacation Rental Company, which specializes in luxury vacation rentals, but lately some of her legitimate properties have been used as lures by scam artists on the Internet. "What they're doing is they're actually stealing my information from my website, prices are obviously different, so my prices are very good for the area and then they're going in and half-pricing what the cost is for a nice home like this," Liebhardt said.
"We have a lot of our victims from the Bay Area and down south," El Dorado County District Attorney's Office Investigator Dave Stevenson said. "If you look at all the other houses and you see this one great deal, that's a red flag. Then, what they're doing is they're having you take that money and deposit it in a legitimate bank account. However, it's a fraudulent bank account in the sense that the people then close it after they get their money and then they're gone."
The fraudulent listings appear on websites like Craigslist, but rather than a credit card number the scammers asks for a wire transfer. And while the deposits are often large, the nightly rates or usually low.
In one case, the scammer listed a 6,000 square-foot home for $450 per night. However, the real price during high season is $2,200 per night. "New Year's Eve, I had lovely people in here. I had 17 guests and at 7:30 p.m. I get a call that there had been 20 people that arrived outside thinking they had purchased this rental," Liebhardt said.
While El Dorado County authorities try to track down the scammers, the best advice for South Lake Tahoe renters is to stick with a legitimate company, use a credit card and what looks too good to be true, probably is.