Kelly and Deidre Britt were thrilled to find an Internet listing for a three-star Manhattan "suite" at a bargain $250-a-night for their family's trip to the Big Apple — until they opened the door to the room.
The two rooms were filthy and musty, with paint peeling off the walls. The towels in the bathroom were matted with hair. The fold-out couch was wedged too close to the kitchen sink to open.

"We should have seen a red flag when the taxi driver couldn't find the place," Deirdre Britt said.

The suite was not in a highly rated hotel as advertised, but on the fifth floor of a pre-World War II apartment building in midtown Manhattan. Oh, it did come with a view — of a rusty fire escape visible through a dirty window. There was no flat-screen TV, no concierge, no maid service, no bargain.

The Britts were snookered in a widening scam where landlords pawn off apartments as hotel rooms to cash in on New York City's tourism boom. They are posting rooms on popular Internet travel sites, where the legitimacy of the advertisements are not always checked, officials say.

"Tourists are being lied to and tenants are being harassed," said John Raskin, a community organizer for Housing Conservation Coordinators, a non-profit affordable housing group in New York. "And the landlords have a greedy agenda."

Get the full story at USA TODAY