Vacation rental scam causes nightmare for Hawaii realtors, customers

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The summer travel season is heating up and everyone is looking for a good deal, whether it is a plane ticket, rental car or place to stay. Officials are saying beware before booking, however.

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This comes as a year-long vacation rental scam that stretches from Oahu to Kauai continues to cause headaches for both realtors and customers.

The problems all started when a fake listing on Craigslist advertised a too-good-to-be-true deal. It seemed real and the scammers used the name of an actual realtor.

“A text came in and it was from a young lady just berating me and telling me she’s going to sue me and all these things,” said Rick Emins, a Kauai realtor being impersonated in the scam. “I responded and said, ‘I don’t know who you are or what you’re talking about.'”

Emins says he has been tangled in this web for the past year, with victim after victim reaching out to him.

“People call me from the airport. One guy called me saying, ‘hey, Rick, are you on the way? This is Brian, are you on the way to pick me up?’ I had to call him and tell him no. It’s just been miserable. I check Craigslist probably six to eight times a day,” Emins said.

The scam is also creating problems for the Oahu real estate company that manages the permitted rental.

“Two separate people came to the property, knocked on the door looking for this guy, because they were there to check in for the month of May,” said Kristine Palaualelo of the Cynthia Rubinstein Real Estate.

Kauai police say they have seen an uptick in rental scams on Craigslist.

Consumers are advised to look past the steal of the price and look for clues that the listing is a scam.

“None of the rental companies that I know of take cash,” Emins said.

“The words that they’re using are like ‘apartment’ and a lot of typos and weird spelling,” Palaualelo said.

The Better Business Bureau suggests working with reputable websites to avoid these cons, and always use a credit card and never sign a deal without knowing the terms.

Emins has filed a complaint with the FBI in hopes of stopping the scammers.

“I feel terrible and I get to break the bad news to these people that have been taken advantage of and you know, we’re both essentially victims here,” Emins said.

To report a suspicious listing or a scam, contact the Federal Trade Commission or local authorities.

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