Thanks to the Internet, scammers have a much easier time taking advantage of would-be summer vacationers.

shore house in Lavallette
Townsquare Media photo

There has been no shortage of stories involving people who rent a home or condo for a few days, only to realize when they show up that the property isn't available, or doesn't even exist.

Any bad guy can search the online classifieds for a solid ad, copy the text and pictures, and create their own version, changing only the contact information. In some cases, the scammers completely fabricate a listing, but make it seem realistic with detailed photos and property info.

Melissa Companick, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving New Jersey, said scams like these do pop up in New Jersey, but it's not a problem that's "terribly prevalent."

"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," Companick said. "A little bit of research up front can save you some heartache on the backend."

Her first piece of advice: Research the property itself. Search for the listed address on Google. If you find an empty lot, you're probably not dealing with a legit listing.

Also, if you're asked to pay any money up front, especially through a wire transfer or prepaid credit card, that's a red flag.

Companick also suggested avoiding email with the "seller."

"You probably want to try to call them on the phone and get a sense of who you're actually talking to," she said. "And if you must deal through email, look for punctuation and grammatical errors."

Reports on businesses, both accredited and non-accredited by the Better Business Bureau, can be found on the group's website.

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