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Renters beware: Woman scammed over lake house rental

A woman from Lackawanna County had her vacation plans dashed this past weekend, all because of a scam.

LACKAWANNA COUNTY, Pa. — People have changed how they vacation these days because of the pandemic, Alicia Cole of Archbald included.

Cole and her family decided against getting on a plane this summer and chose to stay closer to home. They looked for a house to rent on Lake Wallenpaupack. She found one posted on a vacation rental site. She found the same house on Craigslist at a cheaper rate. Trying to be cautious, she started researching the property to make sure it was the real deal.

"I just asked if they had availability and why the difference, why they were on both sites, and they said that they would do a savings of $100 per night if I booked off of this site versus booking on this site," said Cole.

Before sending the deposit, Cole asked for the address to check the house out since she didn't live far away. Upon arriving, she spoke to people who were renting it at the time. All looked good, so she went ahead with booking the house through the person she contacted on Craigslist.

Cole says she sent the money through a web-based banking app called Zelle. But a few days before she and her family were set to check in this past Friday, Cole says things started to smell fishy.

"They sent the final text saying I really need to touch base with you for the check-in process tomorrow. Van was packed, we were ready, and all communication stopped."

Cole was able to contact the actual homeowner, who told her this has happened several times and he feels awful for her situation. She has also reached out to law enforcement, and she's contacted her bank to try to dispute the payments she made through Zelle.

"$2,500 is a lot of money to me. I mean, I just don't have that kind of money. That is my vacation fund to do something with the kids, and, sadly, it's gone."

Cole and her family will still be able to rent a boat and spend a day on Lake Wallenpaupack. She hopes that hearing what happened to her makes people aware that it can also happen to them.