I didn’t damage this vacation rental! Do I have to pay for it?

Could you be falsely accused of causing damage to your next vacation rental — and be forced to pay for it?

Colleen McKenna is sure that the answer to that question is “yes.” She just returned from what she thought was a peaceful and uneventful stay in a rented condo in Hawaii. But the property manager says she and her husband caused significant damage to the vacation rental during a domestic disturbance. As a result, he charged her credit card for cleanup and repairs — several days after the couple’s departure.

McKenna says she has absolutely no idea what this man is talking about and believes it’s a scam. Now she’s asking the Elliott Advocacy team to investigate.

Can we find out what’s going on here?

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If a stranger suddenly sends you money by surprise, should you keep it?

If a stranger sends you money by accident, do you have any obligation to give it back? If so, how do you do it without exposing yourself to a scam? And if you transfer money to the wrong person, is there any possible way to fix your mistake?

These are not uncommon dilemmas faced by users of cash apps like Zelle and Venmo in 2021. Along with the increasing popularity and convenience of instant money transfer services came a dramatic rise in pricey user errors. Unfortunately, our attempts to investigate and resolve many of these cases have exposed some disturbing flaws in the programs.

Minh Tran is just one of the many desperate Zelle users who’ve recently asked our team for help. In his case, a stranger’s mistake set off a frustrating and confusing chain of events that almost cost him $360.

Here’s his story.