Crime & Public Safety

Hilton Head woman thought she rented Sea Pines home, but was scammed out of $2K, report says

Are you a victim of a money wiring scam? Here are some common examples

Have you ever been a victim of a wiring scam? Here are some examples of common ways people try to get money from you.
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Have you ever been a victim of a wiring scam? Here are some examples of common ways people try to get money from you.

A Hilton Head woman thought she rented a Sea Pines condo for a few months after graduation, but she may have been scammed out of almost $2,000, according to a Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office report.

In March, the woman found a South Sea Pines Drive unit listed for rent on Craigslist, according to the report.

She responded to the ad and struck a deal with the alleged property owner to rent the unit from May, when she was suppose to graduate with her doctorate degree, through August, the investigator wrote in the report.

After communicating through email because she was never provided a phone number despite asking for it multiple times, the woman paid for the first month’s rent and a security deposit —totaling $1,850 — via PayPal, the report said.

On May 15, when the woman and alleged owner were supposed to meet so she could get the unit keys and move in, no one showed up, according to the report.

While waiting, she walked around the back of the unit she was supposed to be renting and saw personal belongings and pets inside, the report said. She eventually made contact with a man who was living in the unit for the past three months.

The woman got in touch with the property owner, who said there had been “similar issues where an unknown suspect(s) fraudulently represented his property listed on Craigslist as their own for financial gain,” the investigator wrote.

The woman was unable to move in and she reported the scam to the Sheriff’s Office the next day.

A similar situation gained a lot of attention in February when an Ohio man tried to book a week-long stay in Sea Pines but realized he was scammed after he paid $1,250 to secure the rental and never heard back from anyone, according to previous reporting. After hearing the man’s story, some Hilton Head businesses rallied together to pay for a trip to the island for the man and his wife.

How can you avoid being scammed?

Renters can follow some general guidelines when booking rentals on Hilton Head to be sure they’re legitimate, Peter Moersen of Low Country Coastal Rentals previously told The Island Packet.

If you can’t book directly online with your credit card, don’t book: Individuals trying to scam people will set up fake websites and steal photos and texts from legitimate renters.

Speak with the rental company on the phone: Text messages can be sent by anyone.

Don’t ever wire money to a rental company: Companies should have encrypted, traceable money transferring services. When you wire transfer money, you have no recourse if it ends up in the wrong hands.

Read all the reviews: Most established rental sites — private companies, Aribnb and VRBO included — have several recent reviews of properties and details of when the reviewers visited.

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Lana Ferguson has covered crime, police, and other news for The Island Packet & Beaufort Gazette since June 2018. Before coming to the Lowcountry, she worked for publications in her home state of Virginia and graduated from the University of Mississippi, where she was editor of the college’s daily newspaper.
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