IRVING, Texas -- For many families, it’s a summer staple to road trip down to Galveston. It’s where Sandi Parker of Irving plus her kids and grandkids spend Father’s Day weekend.
"They want to play on the beach, the guys go out in the bay and go fishing," said Parker. "This will be the fifth year coming up, and if all the guys go there’s about 12, 13 of us."
With a crowd that size, they need a big house. So last summer, Parker searched online, and found a beauty on the beach. The site was 'VacationRentalHomestoGo.com'. She had no problem booking, then came time to pay and the rental agent asked her to wire the money.
"I had never wired before on a rental property. That was new, but his explanation made sense, the wire went through without a hitch," said Parker.
But there was a hitch when Parker’s daughter pulled up the first night of vacation to find someone else’s party at what should be her house. The property manager who rented to the people already inside confirmed that while the home was real, that particular rental listing was not.
"He said I hate to tell you, but I think you’ve been taken. I think you’ve been scammed," said Parker. She went back online and found the site she used was gone. Today, that listing directs you to a different vacation rental page entirely.
"During Spring Break, during summer, it’s, unfortunately, something that we’re going to regularly see," said Galveston Police Officer Joshua Schirard.
He says there are two things to learn from Parker’s story. First, stick with well-known sites like VRBO or HomeAway when renting, and always pay with a credit card.
"[Scammers] say they only take cash or wire transfer or checks or Western Union," said Officer Schirard. "Means of payment that are very untraceable."
That makes it hard to find these crooks, who are long gone with Parker’s $3,000. She’s more cautious, and wants others to be too, so their summer memories aren't stained by a scam.