'GMA' Investigates: How to Avoid Vacation Rental Scams

PHOTO: Here are some tips on how to avoid a scam when searching for a vacation home.Getty Images
Here are some tips on how to avoid a scam when searching for a vacation home.

For Kira Rogatnik and Chris Walsh, a destination wedding in Positano, Italy, was a dream come true.

Rogatnik, of Chicago, booked a home for her family to stay at during her and Walsh's wedding through the website Airbnb.

“It was almost like a dream vacation home, overlooking Positano,” Rogatnik told ABC News.

The person Rogatnik connected with through Airbnb directed her to a property manager at an email address that looked real.

The property manager directed her to wire him the money instead of paying through the Airbnb website.

Rogatnik says she sent the man nearly $2,700 but discovered that the listing was a fake.

“This doesn’t happen to me,” Rogatnik recounted to ABC News. “I’m smarter than that. How can this happen to me? I’m the smart, savvy Internet user.”

“I felt cheated,” she said.

According to the FBI, more and more people around the country are losing money to fake rental listings.

“These types of scams are so prevalent over the Internet,” Austin Berglas, the assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's cyber division in New York, told ABC News. “When one fraud sort of dies down, another one pops up again.”

“GMA” Investigates decided to take a look at some listings in the vacation rental market in our own backyard, New York City.

On the website Craigslist, we found a three-bedroom, three-bathroom apartment in New York’s trendy Greenwich Village for just $180 a night.

Included in that price -- a total of $560 for two nights plus the security deposit -- were a rooftop terrace with a reflecting pool and a 24-hour doorman.

We wired the money to Oklahoma and received a rental agreement, a contact number and a photograph of the man we were supposed to meet.

When we arrive at the apartment two days later, things started getting weird.

The man we were supposed to meet told us by phone that he was at the airport waiting for a group of people from Washington, D.C., but would meet us soon with keys to the apartment.

After five hours of several phone calls and countless texts, the renter stopped responding.

We later found out the listing was not real and the pictures on Craigslist were lifted from the website of an apartment complex in New Jersey.

The renter did not respond to “GMA”’s request for a comment and did not issue us a refund.

We also repeatedly reached out to Craigslist, where we originally found the apartment listing, but did not hear back.

Rogatnik and Walsh did not see their dream day ruined by the vacation rental bust because Airbnb refunded the couple their money.

The company told ABC News in a statement that "incidents like this are very rare" and that consumers can protect themselves by paying through the AirBnB website and never by cash or by wire transfer.

In order to avoid vacation rental scams, the FBI and other experts say to pay with a credit card.

They also say to always ask for additional information like photos and, if you don't get the additional information, to be suspicious.

The FBI suggests that people who think they have been scammed on an online vacation rental or anything else online, should file a report at the Internet crime complaint center website, ic3.gov.