Rental scams mount in Park City as warnings widen |

Rental scams mount in Park City as warnings widen

by Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

The Park City Police Department in late January continued to field complaints from people claiming they were the victims of fraud as they booked places to stay while visiting the city or from people with problems related to rental scams.

The cases were reported as the Sundance Film Festival was occurring, but it was not clear from public police logs whether the people were in Park City for the festival. The police logs did not provide details about the cases, and further information was not immediately available. It was also not clear whether each of the cases involved a loss by the victim.

The cases reported to the police in the last week included:

  • on Jan. 26 at 5:07 p.m., someone went to the Park Avenue police station to file a report The police said the victim found the lodging on Craigslist, a popular online marketplace of rentals. The police were told money was transferred for the booking, but when the person arrived in Park City they discovered the address did not exist. The place was apparently supposed to be on Lowell Avenue, the police were told.
  • on Jan. 25 at 6:33 p.m., someone reported that a home was fraudulently listed on Craigslist by a person claiming to be the owner.
  • on Jan. 23, the police received a report at 12:54 p.m. from someone on Shadow Ridge Road reporting a suspected fraud case involving a rental. The case occurred on Jan. 18, the police were told.
  • on Jan. 23 at 11:20 a.m., someone on an undisclosed block number of Park Avenue reported a suspected fraud involving a property that was booked online. The arrival date for the lodging was Jan. 16, the police were told.
  • on Jan. 20 at 12:44 a.m., a suspected fraud was reported on an undisclosed block number of Woodside Avenue. The place was not for rent, the police were told.
  • on Jan. 20 at 10:15 a.m., the police indicated someone rented a condominium somewhere on Woodside Avenue through a Craigslist posting. The public police logs did not mention a problem with the rental, but it seems likely the complaint involved some sort of suspected fraud given the nature of the report.

    In the previous week, at least one case was reported, on Shadow Ridge Road. Similar cases have been logged through the ski season. There had been approximately 10 cases reported with similar circumstances since the start of the season prior to the complaints last week. The Police Department had said earlier in January it anticipated more cases given the busy film festival was approaching. Busy stretches of the ski season are upcoming, including Presidents Day weekend and spring break.

    Some of the earlier cases involved losses in the range of approximately $900 to $1,200, the police have said, and the victims needed to make other arrangements for lodging. The early cases included houses and condominiums, and they were mostly in Old Town.

    The Police Department has said the cases have involved online listings for rentals at low prices and with pictures of attractive properties. The person interested in renting is eventually told to wire money to a bank, normally one outside of Utah, and then arrives at the place and finds that someone is living there and it is not for rent, the police have said.

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    Some of the cases involved people wiring money to an account at a Texas bank. The bank has declined to comment, citing privacy policies.

    The police in Park City have said they do not have the jurisdiction to pursue fraud cases like the ones reported since the transaction occurred outside the city. The victims are typically referred to law enforcement agencies where they live and where the bank that received the money wire is located.

    The Police Department has recommended people looking for lodging use a property-management company. The Park City Chamber/Bureau has given similar advice.

    At least two people recently posted messages in the ‘Vacation Rentals’ section of Craigslist’s Salt Lake page warning of scams in Park City. The messages went up on Jan. 23. One of them was labeled "*Scam*Scam*Scam*Rentals (Park City)" and the other carried the label of "*Warning*-Park City Vacation Rental Scam."

    The text of the "*Scam*Scam*Scam*Rentals (Park City)" message follows:

    "Protect yourself! Scammers are out in full force…posting Park City vacation listings for properties THEY DO NOT OWN. After you wire your deposit, you never hear from them again. Some vacationers get to the address of the place they’ve ‘rented’ to find out they are occupied by the true owner who has never heard of these people. Rent through established property managers, VRBO, or request PROOF OF OWNERSHIP…utility bills, etc…

    The scammers are flooding Craigslist with dozens of bogus listings. Some of the photos are laughable…you can actually see palm trees through the windows, or a city scape with high rises and rivers in the background…none of which you will find in Park City! They are posting prices too good to be true…80 per night for a 1 bedroom, 100-120 per night for a slopeside 2 bedroom…give me a break!!"