Condo scam spoils Indiana family's Florida vacation
A spring break deal turned into a vacation nightmare for an Indiana family.
The Paul family from Brown County was ready for their usual trip to St. Petersburg, Florida, but this year encountered the unusual.
"When she sent me a note the condo was a scam, I was, like...I started crying. I couldn't believe it. It was just horrible," said Connie Paul.
After a 17-hour drive with seven kids, including quadruplets, her daughter's family pulled into St. Pete Friday, sending texts back to mom in Indiana as they approached their rental.
"We're seven minutes from the beach," Paul said. "Then about ten minutes later, I just got a note that said, 'There's no condo here.'"
Sun, sand and no place to stay. They're still trying to figure out how it all happened.
The family often books online, usually with a site called "VRBO." But VRBO didn't have the space they needed when they need it, so they tried Craigslist.
Connie says her daughter, Amy, picked a condo described as "very upscale, four bedrooms, beautiful view."
"$1,400 a week, which probably should have been a clue to all of us it was probably a scam. That's pretty cheap for an upscale condominium," Paul said.
It's prime rental time in St. Petersburg and the family was lucky to get a place for at least two nights. The rest of the vacation was still unclear.
"It's heartbreaking to think, when you are a trusting, loving family, you expect other people to be the same," Paul said.
Consumer advocates say when booking online, it's best to research the property by doing a web search for the address to make sure it exists.
Also, book through a website that screens the property owner that posts the property and book with a credit card as opposed to cash, money order or check. You have more buyer protection with the credit card.