It’s nice to have a little variety when you go on vacation. Sure there are plenty of nice hotels and motels, but renting another person’s home, condo or apartment can be a fun alternative. Unfortunately, it’s also an opportunity for scammers to rip you off.
Vacation scammers can get you in a number of ways. They might create rental listings with fantastic, appealing photos. Once you’ve fallen in love, the fake landlord collects an upfront deposit. Then you show up at the address weeks later and, surprise! That wasn’t the real landlord, you’ve just been cheated and you have no place to stay.
Another common scam is bait-and-switch. You are shown a nice vacation home that isn’t really available and at the last minute, you wind up with a place you’d never want to stay if you’d known up front.
There are websites that specialize in helping you locate a vacation rental, with protections such as secure payment, visitor comments and rating systems. But even those sites aren’t immune from trickery. You still have to keep your wits about you.
BBB warns consumers of the following red flags:
The deal sounds too good to be true. Scammers will often list a rental for a very low price to lure victims. Find out how comparable listings are priced. If the rental comes in suspiciously low, consider walking away.
The landlord is located elsewhere and prefers to communicate via email. Scammers might say they have just been relocated out of the country for a job or missionary work. If the “landlord” is truly overseas, there is also no way to get a copy of a lease or keys. Most likely, the property belongs to someone else and you’ll never get a key.
The landlord refuses to provide additional pictures or information. Renting a place you’ve never seen in person is a risk. The landlord should be willing to help. Consumer using a trusted local agent, who will listen to what you want, consider your budget and help you find legitimate listings–or even check the property in person. Be sure to check their license.
The landlord asks you to wire money. Money sent via wire transfer service is extremely difficult to retrieve. Once the scammers have picked it up, there is little recourse, if any, for getting any money back.