Recently there have been a lot of reports of Vacation Rental scams, mostly in Florida, USA. What happens there could happen here. So how do you make sure you don’t fall for a vacation rental scam.
What are these vacation rental scams?
Vacation rental scam 1
The most recently reported scams relate to properties that are being advertised for sale. The scammers lift the property details from the real estate site and create a vacation rental advertisement. The guests arrive at their booked, paid for, holiday rental only to be told that the property in question is not, and has never been, available for rental.
Vacation rental scam 2
Similar to vacation rental scam number 1, here the scammer lifts photographs from an existing holiday rental advertisement. They then re-advertise it, often on the same holiday rental site, but at a completely different location. When the booking is confirmed and the guests arrive at their holiday property rental location – it doesn’t exist. AirBnb was subject to a lot of this sort of scamming and was featured on a BBC current affairs program. Which led to us removing our properties from their website. We trust they have tightened up their advertising vetting process now.
Vacation rental scam 3
Less serious, but extremely annoying, are the fantastic properties that are advertised as available, but when you enquire they are booked and the advertiser offers you a lesser property as an alternative. Or the owner / property manager deliberately overbooks the property of your choice, releasing it to whoever turns up first. When the second party of guests arrive they receive profuse apologies and are diverted to an alternative, probably second-rate, property.
How to avoid Vacation rental scams
Check the photographs of the property don’t appear on a real estate site or in another rental advertisement but advertised at a different physical location. This can be done quite easily using Google Images.In the search box click on the camera icon. Then either enter the image url or upload an image.Google will return a list of sites that are showing the same property. Usually multiple site listings of the image are due to advertising on different rental sites and on the owner’s website. It should be easy to spot if there are any glaring discrepancies.
Use Google Earth and Google Street view to verify that the property actually exists at the location given.
Speak to the owner/manager on the phone. Many rental property adverts don’t give telephone numbers. We don’t put ours out on the website or on adverts because to do so means being bombarded with cold-callers who want to sell you something. Once you are in an email / message conversation ask for the phone number and call the owner / manager.
Ask the owner/manager for more photographs, a genuine owner/manager will always make more photographs available. If possible ask the owner to show you the property using Skype or similar technology.
How well does the owner/manager know the area where the property is located? A genuine owner/manager should be able to, and be happy to, answer all your questions about the local area.
Never pay in cash or using cash money transfer services like Western Union. Paying with a credit card (Visa, MasterCard and American Express) provides fraud protection and you can recover your money. However it might be too late to save your holiday.
Check reviews and messages on the rental websites and other related forums. Some of the forums allow you to ask questions of other users.
Many of the holiday rental websites show how long an owner/manager has been advertising with them. If the property has been advertised for sometime it’s more than likely genuine. Of course new properties are being added all the time and most will be genuine – we all have to start somewhere
Ask your friends about rental properties they may have stayed in. Get recommendations – always the best!
Follow your instincts …. if a deal seems to good to be true, it probably is. If something seems not quite right investigate some more, ask more questions, if you don’t get the right answers find something else.
We have been renting our two villas for over 10 years now and happily have not been exposed to any kind of vacation rental scams. Just something else we have to be aware of and keep on the lookout for.