Avoiding Vacation Rental Scams

With the summer temperatures on the rise, so too are vacation rental scams.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, here is how the scam works:

You find a great house or apartment listed for rent on the Internet. The photos look great, and the rates are somewhere between very low and reasonable. You make contact with the person you think is the owner, book a date, and pre-pay some or all of your fee. In some cases, a fraudster may have just lifted the info and pictures from a real listing and re-posted them elsewhere. He changes the contact info so you come to him, not the owner, and now he’s making money.

In other cases, the fraudster posts a phantom listing—the rental doesn’t really exist. He promises all kinds of amenities, and you think you’ve just snagged a great option at a low price. All he has to do is get you to pay up before you figure things out.

Source: FBI and Federal Trade Commission

Red flags to watch for

US News’ Real Estate section details eight simple red flags to watch out for:

  1. Photos – The listing photos have an MLS watermark.
  2. Details – The listing details are vague.
  3. Showing – They don’t want to show you the place first.
  4. Deal – They’re ready to make a deal with no background info.
  5. Unavailable – The owner is out of the country.
  6. Sign – They want you to sign before seeing anything.
  7. Rent – The asking rent doesn’t match up.
  8. Wire – They instruct you to wire money.

Source:  US News Real Estate

What can you do?

Both the FBI and US News recommend that you use simple services such as online interactive maps and reliable travel websites to make your reservation. As always, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If you have been a victim or believe you were about to be a victim, you should report it in three locations:

  1. Your local police department
  2. The police department where the alleged property is located
  3. IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Center)

 

Have another thought, tip or suggestion? Leave it in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!

Posted by Elvis Huff

Elvis Huff worked as an officer and network administrator for 12 years with the Lebanon Police Department and has also served as an adjunct professor in information systems at Cumberland University. Read More »

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