BOCA RATON (CBSMiami) — As the popularity of the vacation rental website Airbnb grows, so are the scam artists and crooks looking to prey upon homeowners advertising that their property is unoccupied.
The latest trending scam involves customers cancelling their rental agreement just hours, or sometimes sooner, before it starts — but after they’ve received the key code to get inside the home.
Boca Raton Police are warning the community of this type of scam following an incident on August 29th.
A Boca resident rented out their home on Airbnb for 10 days, but it was cancelled three hours before the rental was set to begin. However, the garage code was already sent to the customers for entry.
The owner immediately changed the code.
Shortly before midnight, police said, four people, including a juvenile, went to the residence and tried to use the code to gain access inside, unaware the code had already been changed.
They allegedly forced their way inside by “prying a slider open,” the department said on their website.
Police were able to apprehend one suspect inside the home. The three others were arrested after a traffic stop near Yamato Road and I-95.
Charged with Burglary to an unoccupied dwelling were Jean Henry, 18, Gerald Duchatelier, 20, and Braxton Francis, 21. A 14-year-old boy was also charged.
If anyone has information about this incident, please contact Detective Dubinsky at 561-620-6232.
Helpful Tips To Renting Your Property
Boca Raton Police have also offered several tips when renting out property:
•Thieves often look for clues in the postings to see if there might be valuables left inside the residence.
•Do not leave anything of value, including jewelry, portable electronics or important documents (such as passports and social security cards) in your home while you are renting it out. If you must leave these items at home, lock them in a safe that is secured to the floor of your home.
•If possible, meet your renters in person rather than leaving a key for them, especially if the account is new. This allows you to have a brief conversation with your renters before you allow them access to your home and everything in it.
•Thieves often use fraudulent identification to open online accounts. When you meet your renters in person, attempt to verify their identity by asking for their driver’s license, and if possible, take a photograph of it.
•Ask for the names of every person who will be staying at your property. If the renters refuse to give you everyone’s name, the renter may have bad intentions.
•Try to take note of the make, model, color, and license plate number of the vehicles your renters are driving.
•Thieves actively try to avoid surveillance cameras. If you have surveillance cameras inside and/or outside your home, a thief is less likely to rent your home than one without surveillance cameras.
•Be extremely cautious of people who book your home at the last minute and cancel once they find out the hiding location of the key or obtain any codes to access the property. Immediately remove the key from where you told the renters it would be. If the key is already missing, call the police.
•If you feel the renters’ behavior is suspicious during the reservation process, cancel the reservation and call the police.