South Lake Tahoe police are advising vacation home owners, rental companies and visitors to the area to beware of an Internet scam conducted through vacation rental websites.
At least three families have been victims of the scam, and police suspect there may be additional victims who have not reported the crime.
The scam, according to a Police Department news release, involves false postings on legitimate vacation rental websites advertising rental properties available in South Lake Tahoe. The fraudulent postings appear alongside legitimate postings and include photographs of residences in the area, which make the postings appear authentic.
A victim typically contacts the scammer via email through such a website, and the individual emails what appear to be a legitimate rental agreement with an out-of-state bank account number and routing number for the victim to send money. The scammer then has the victim wire transfer the money, making it nonrefundable to the victim by a bank, officials said.
Victims send the money, thinking they have secured a reservation for the property. But when they arrive, they discover that the transaction was fraudulent and they have lost their money.
Police said the thieves have used accounts in multiple states and have used different names, both male and female. One thing the cases have had in common is the cell phone number, (940) 238-447, listed on the rental agreement.
The South Lake Tahoe Police Department is asking vacation home owners and rental companies to monitor these websites for fraudulent activity involving their properties. Visitors to the Lake Tahoe area who find they are victims of the scam are asked to call Officer Mark Hounsell at (530) 542-6100.