Attorney, Division of Consumer and Business Education
Ready to start booking your next vacation? Maybe you’re thinking about renting a house or condo. These days it’s easy to connect directly with property owners who advertise their vacation homes online, and you’ve probably heard wonderful stories from people who rent vacation properties. We have, too. But we’ve also heard from people who’ve fallen for vacation rental scams.
If you’ve ever shopped for a mortgage, you know it takes time to sort through competing ads. If an online ad claimed you could “save up to $2,000 a year,” lower your mortgage payment with “no credit check” or refinance your mortgage for free with “no hidden fees,” you might think it looked pretty good and submit your personal information.
When severe weather strikes, utility outages often are par for the course. Unfortunately, utility scams are becoming part of the drill, too.
Here’s how the scam works: Someone claiming to be with your local utility company comes around during an outage and offers to reconnect your service for a cash payment. Sure, you think it’s a bit odd that they’re asking for cash, but maybe the company’s power is out, too, and they can’t operate the computers to process payments. Besides, the person looks and sounds legitimate, and you really need your service turned on.
Con artists are adept at selling — or selling you on — just about anything. When it comes to timeshare resale services, they may claim to have a buyer for your property. Or that they can sell your place quickly and for a good price. But first, you’ll have to pay a hefty fee.
If you’re looking for a mortgage, ads for “$0 money down” may be tempting. But if they hide fees or don’t disclose the true terms of the deal, they’re misleading, and they violate the law. In fact, the FTC recently settled charges with a Pennsylvania homebuilder that deceived consumers with ads for low-cost mortgages that hid fees and didn’t disclose vital information about the true cost of the mortgages.
Consumer Education Specialist, Federal Trade Commission
The FTC and state consumer protection agencies have shut down dishonest timeshare resellers for bilking timeshare owners out of millions of dollars. If you’re selling a timeshare, listen carefully for the promise of lots of money quickly and a request for an upfront fee. Those are two key signs of timeshare resale scam — and someone you don’t want to do business with.
Getting a low interest rate on your mortgage can make a big difference in your household finances, and the internet can be a good way to compare the rates offered by various lenders. The FTC’s case against GoLoansOnline.com shows the value of shopping around and checking multiple sources of information.