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When a travel offer is too good to be true

We decided at the last minute to take the kids to New York City for Spring Break this year. For two nights after putting the kids to bed, I spent hour upon bleary-eyed hour in front of the computer, searching Priceline, hotels.com, orbitz, expedia, and so on for an affordable, family-friendly place to stay. I wasn't having a whole lot of luck.

So I tried Craigslist. I've used Craigslist a lot. I've sold a high-end Wolf hood and ice skates. I've bought a next-to-new Pearl drumset for my son for an unbelievably low price of $400. I love Craigslist.

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Immediately, my eyes lit up and my heart quickened. The vacation rental apartment sublets were cheap cheap cheap and gorgeous. I began sending email inquiries -- at 3:43 a.m.

When I received immediate responses, the red flags should have gone up. Instead, I thought, 'Oh wow, these New Yorkers are as crazy as I am, staying up so late.'

A few hours later, somehow I just knew in my heart, standing there at the Western Union counter, ready to wire nearly $1,000 to a complete stranger in New Jersey, that $150 a night for a two-bedroom apartment rental in Gramercy Park in a prewar building with a garden view, a swimming pool and fitness center, was too good to be true....

Sigh.

I'm writing a story, I'm ashamed to say, about my stupidity and the lengths we go to in deluding ourselves because we so want to believe in a deal that's too good to be true.

I want to hear your stories of apartment/ vacation rental scams or near-misses with scams. Send me a note, or leave a message in your comments below. Look for the story in our Travel section.

By Brigid Schulte  | April 5, 2010; 10:18 AM ET
Categories:  Build-A-Story  
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Comments

A few years ago, I booked a villa on the Amalfi Coast in Italy through a website and wired the money in advance to the owner. The owner told me she would leave the key to the front door in the potted plant on the terrace. I flew to Italy, rented a car in Naples and drove a couple hours to the small village where my villa was located, all on trust that there would be this magical plant holding the key to the villa.

When I finally arrived, I walked up the stairs hauling my bags and looked into the pot on the terrace. Sitting there was a bright yellow keychain with a key that unlocked the door. I had a wonderful time there. And when I left, I locked the door and put the key right back in the pot! I never even met the owner.

Posted by: MStreet1 | April 5, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Wow! MStreet1 - What a great story. I was worried as I was reading it, that you would have lugged your stuff up the stairs to find a family in the middle of breakfast wondering who the heck you were! Can you please shoot me an email, I'd love to talk to you about your experience for the story. Thanks - schulteb@washpost.com

Posted by: BrigidSchulte | April 5, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

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