Protect your family's vacation: Woman falls prey to Craigslist vacation scam

Woman falls prey to Craigslist vacation scam (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Sightseeing, sunbathing or skiing who doesn't like a good vacation?

But con-artists are working to get a cut of your travel money.

Local 12 Troubleshooter Howard Ain shows you one way they try to get your money, and how you can avoid getting ripped off.

Lots of people go online these days looking for deals when planning a vacation, but, as one woman learned, it's important to carefully check out any websites you plan to use.

She was planning a vacation with friends in the Florida area when she realized the dates they chose were during spring break.

Everything was booked.

“I went to craigslist as a last resort, and sure enough, there was a listing,” said the woman, who wants to remain anonymous.

She was thrilled. The property was in the perfect location.

“He told me to go to the website to look right on the beach, and we could have it for the four nights. Perfect,” said

She sent their deposit of $1,600 to the coastline realtors right away.

“He sent us back a written document, which was the contract about three pages worth of the do's the don'ts,” said

A few days before their expected arrival, she called asking where to pick up the keys. No answer.

“Now, I’m really beginning to become very suspicious,” said the woman.

Then she got an email.

“Unfortunately, he overbooked the condo. He would be refunding our deposit,” said the woman.

But no money ever came.

“I am beyond angry, you know, for ruining our plans,” said the woman.

She called police, the state's attorney general and postal inspectors who quickly learned she was not alone.

Michael Carleton had scammed more than 100 people out of money and their vacations with losses over $200,000.

“He had been a legitimate realtor and property manager for a long time,” said Alexandra Papageorge, a US Postal Inspector.

But at some point, everything changed.

“He started renting out these properties in multiples. So, he would rent out to one customer and then he would rent out to another customer,” said Papageorge.

Inspectors say research is key. In fact, many poor reviews had been written about Carleton on internet travel sites.

Look up the company that's doing the rental using a search engine like Google, do the same for the address, and do the same for the property manager's name, you know, just try several different variations just to see what you find out.

Michael Carleton was charged with mail fraud and sentenced to 21 months in prison. He also agreed to pay more than $136,000 in restitution.

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