(KMSP) - A softball team from the east Twin Cities metro is out thousands of dollars and a place to stay after falling victim to a fake online home rental posting in Florida.
"We were all just dumbfounded,” said Eric Benedict, the team manager. “We did not know what was going on. It was hard to believe."
For the past four years, the Minnesota Maniax have traveled to Florida to play in a national slow pitch softball tournament, but this year the team's dream vacation turned into a nightmare.
"We had people crying because we felt stranded, stuck a long way from home," he said.
Benedict said they saw a listing for a home rental in Cocoa Beach on the vacation rental website HomeAway as well as VRBO and Craigslist.
They decided to rent three homes with pools for the players along with their wives and kids, but when they flew in on Sunday and went to one of the houses they learned they had been deceived.
"Got to the house,” said Benedict. “Knocked on the door. Guy answered the door. We said we are here to check in and he had no idea what we were talking about."
The team found a cheap hotel for the night and one of their teammates put up the money for them to rent a pair of homes so they can stay for the tournament.
The Maniax lost the $4,500 they collected through fundraisers and the stress of the ordeal has put a damper on what was supposed to be nine days of fun in the sun.
"I am 100 percent one of those people who says, ‘This could never happen to me. I'm too smart, I did my homework.’ I did my research and it did,” said Benedict.
Benedict believes the man they thought they were renting from took pictures of the homes from the real estate website Zillow and used them to create the fake listing.
“I would say to anyone going through these sites, you have be careful and even when you think you are being careful and have done everything you think you can do - do more," he said.
The Better Business Bureau suggests doing a Google image search on the photos in a vacation rental ad. If they show up in another listing, that's a sign something could be wrong.