Internet Travel Scam Alert

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>>> you are planning a getaway to sunny florida, watch out. that house you thought you rented could be nothing more than a scam. kerry sanders joins us from ft. lauderdale to explain. good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, ann. it seems to simple. go on the internet, find a beach house to rent, sign a contract, send money and go on a dream vacation. what if you show up and it turns out the contract is bogus and the person you paid to rent the house from doesn’t even own it? it is one of ft. lauderdale’s most desirable neighborhoods, only five blocks long, right on the beach near a shopping district where the rich live and play. for three generations of family and friends for quebec it was the perfect spot for a girls’ getaway.

>> it looked just like what i wanted. perfect house.

>> reporter: louise bedard found the house on a rental website. $5700 for 24 days. $237.50 a day. a deal. especially when the cost for the five bedroom house was split among everyone. this is the house they paid to rent. but in the window of the front door, a sign.

>> it’s not for rent. it is absolutely not for rent.

>> reporter: in the last 12 months steve chase, the owner, has had four families show up from quebec, montreal and south carolina, all believing they rented his house for a vacation. his neighbors have had a dozen more families show up to rent their houses.

>> there was a taxi in my driveway and the driver was actually taking luggage out of the taxi, leaving it on my front door.

>> reporter: steve chase isn’t a victim. he hasn’t lost money. but he’s angry. he turned to police who told him since the scammed victims were not locals he should call the secret service. he then contacted ic-3, a partnership with the fbi and the national white collar crime center which led him to florida’s attorney general who said, call the local police.

>> i’m looking here at your dining room table which is command central of an investigation. you’re running into brick walls.

>> brick walls and just going in a vicious circle.

>> reporter: so we took that contract for steve’s house that those women from quebec had and shared it with experts at dell secureworks, an internet security company in atlanta.

>> analyzing the document —

>> reporter: john ramsey found code hidden in the document.

>> there is a name of odigie which is a common nigerian name.

>> reporter: could it be a scam with a new twist? in this case it appears the money is staying in the united states. the women from quebec traced their check to a bank in lowell, arkansas. others sent checks san bernardino, california. that’s where richard adams found anthony peretes who said he cashed checks for the fake rental listings saying he would get $100 for every check and then he wired the bulk of the money to someone he never met.

>> i don’t get much. i get chump change.

>> reporter: as for the women from quebec, a somewhat happy ending. they came to florida on vacation, found a legitimate house to rent and they are getting their money back from the phoney rental thanks to a fast-acting banker who froze the check when it was deposited.

>> the next time? we’re going to be a little bit more careful for sure.

>> reporter: the better business bureau said the scams look small. $3,000 here, $6,000 here but they add up to millions. the best advice, don’t wire money, don’t send a check. use your credit card. that limits your liability. ann?

>> kerry sanders with good advice this morning. thanks, kerry. up

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