Ghost Rentals

The Lookout team investigates a type rental property fraud and how you can protect yourself.
8:40 | 09/04/13

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Transcript for Ghost Rentals
Ghost rentals. Spooky as all get out. David? Ryan and I are standing here at the rental house. You were supposed to be here with the keys. Reporter: This, ladies and gentlemen, is a stickup. No gun or get away car required. All the bad guys here needed was an internet connection and some stolen photos. You wouldn't have taken our money, would you. Reporter: THEY ALMOST GOT Brian, a regular guy who answered an ad to rent the house behind us. We're going to try it with a different phone. Reporter: Ryan is helping us lay a trap now for a man who took nearly $2,000, promised to meet us with the key and never showed up. Leave your message after the tone. Reporter: All over the country people are losing money to fake rental listing. More than ever before according to the fbi. Even in this small oregon town, 15 separate victims lost more than $20,000 on the exact same house advertised on craig's list by a shadowy fake landlord. And here in california -- I should have thought, wow, $400 a night this house is amazing, how could that be. I thought maybe we were lucky. Reporter: Sharon booked this house in lake tahoe for her family through the rental website home away.Com. Like a bali style set up. Reporter: Her cousin joyce and husband and daughter got there first. While sharon was on the road, they walked right in. Sprawling big place. Totally decked out. I felt like singing. . I was so happy. Reporter: There was just one problem. Shawn the owner had not put his home up for rent. I could see that there were people in my house. I took a peek through the slats and recognized there were total strangers in my house. I entered my house with some trepidation. All of a sudden we saw a man come in. The little girl sort of screamed. I was kind of surprised. I didn't know who he was. I informed them that I was the owner of the house. He basically said sorry to tell you this but you guys have been scammed. But they weren't the only ones to arrive on shawn's doorstep. Over the last two weeks i have confirmed episodes with various groups, families, believing they were renting my properties when indeed they had been scammed. Reporter: Home away.Com claims it's rare on their site, less than 1 in 10,000 listing are fake. But confirms there were travelers who thought they rented shawn's house seen on their website. Authorities are looking for the cyber criminal who did it. People who create these ads are virtually impossible to catch. You don't have to be bugsy seigel anymore. You only have to be a guy with access to the internet. A faceless transaction and unsoup lus people take advantage. Reporter: We wanted to pose as an unsuspecting target. That's how we got involved with brian. Did he identify himself as david right after the bat. Reporter: He found his dream rental on craig's list, a sprawling house on the island of nantucket for $1500 a week. This house in this ad looked absolutely fantastic. Reporter: Ryan and his wife planned an end of the summer vacation before two of their kids left for college. But then he got suspicious. The more I started looking at this house I was getting more concerned that it really was too good to be true. Reporter: So brian pulled a nancy drew. He called the nantucket town hall and tracked down the real owner of the house he wanted to rent. So at that point I had a name, I had an address of somebody in new york, the real owner of the property. Reporter: It won't surprise you the owner was not named david. He had no clue his house was posted on craig's list. He was renting the house but not for $1500, try $20,000. How do you think he got the pictures of the house? From looking at the internet and created a craig's list ad and that was it. Reporter: It's called scraping, using photos, details scraped from other legitimate websites. It wasn't the images that first raised brian's suspicions. It was the poor grammar in his texts and e-mails. He hand them over to us. After weeks of texting back and forth, we got david on the phone. I pose as brian's wife to arrange payment and go over the details of our rifle. We're so excited. Reporter: David promises to meet us with the keys in front of the house. I'm sorry? I didn't hear you well. Reporter: The phone connection is horrible, something to look out for. If you think you're talking to nigeria, you might be. While I know something about the geography of nantucket island, I'm beginning to get the hunch that david really doesn't. The following week we travel to nantucket, meet up with brian to see if david will actually show up. Do I go left or right? I would turn right. After trying to follow his directions, my suspicions was confirmed. Found a light house but not the house. Reporter: So we put the address in our gps. Which house is it? Number 19. Reporter: We arrived at the actual house where we wait and wait and wait. David, brian and I are standing here at the rental house but you were supposed to be here with the key. Reporter: All we got was his voice mail. But there was one last lead on the bottom of the fake rental contract we noticed there is a local address for david's supposed company. David's trail has gone cold and we're pretty sure he's gone for good. There isn't very much to do about it. Reporter: It's a story we found out local police are all too familiar with. Did you have the resources to fix this? Locally we don't. We refer them to different federal agencies, the fbi or the postal inspectors with varying degrees of success. Reporter: Frankly it's just too small for them. How much do you have to have lost in order for the fbi to step in? Typically in the millions of dollars or if it's part of an organiime ring. Reporter: So unless you're renting the entire nantucket island, it's up to you to protect yourself from people like david. We had some unfinished business and were determined to confront david about ripping us off. Just a couple of hours ago, we got him on the phone. Hi, david? Reporter: He is still at it, this time trying to rent us an apartment in new york. We sent you 1850 bucks to rent a house in nantucket. You were supposed to meet us with the key, but you never came. How many people have you ripped off? How many people have you stolen money from? Expletive. He said he's not a criminal, says he's in brooklyn. I don't think so. Reporter: Brian's family didn't end up with their dream house but still had a dreamy vacation, and so did the clan in lake tahoe who found last minute accommodations and learned a valuable lesson, never let sherry book your vacation.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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