Awareness and Alertness Can Help You Avoid Vacation Rental Scams

Vacations allow people to relax and enjoy time with family and friends at some attractive places, such as exotic beaches, amazing mountains and any other serene location. Fretting over any sort of vacation rental scam is the last thing you want to experience. However, vacation rental scams are a reality. If you are a gullible customer, please be ware there are lots of websites with enticing offers on vacation properties that can easily make you a victim of scams.

Most of the scammers follow the basic technique of listing fake advertisements of vacation homes with compelling prices that can catch attention. The photos and description of the property in the advertisements are usually lifted from a legitimate property website. In some cases the address posted in the advertisement may not exist at all. It could also be the address of a property that is not meant to be for rent. Sometimes it may even be a fake rental description invented by the scammers. Such forged advertisements are not only shown in online classified websites like Craigslist or EBay but are also visible on online chat boards, newspapers and fake property websites created intentionally to cheat online visitors.

Objective of posted scam advertisements on vacation homes

The main goal of the fraudsters’ and the fake vacation rental advertisement is to extract an up-front payment from those who are interested in the offer. Furthermore, they can also steal identities by asking the curious visitors to submit personal information through an application form. Everything from the transaction payment gateway to the rental agreement and collecting keys seems legitimate, but once the payment is done, then you will know that it was a scam. Sometimes, you may not know about it until you are on your vacation with your family and visit the given address of the rental.

Who are mostly targeted?

Such scams are mostly used for targeting long-term rentals in college towns or localities well-known for retired people and targets audiences such as parents of college students and others looking to cut down rental expenses. One source of these ads are owners of a property that is about to be foreclosed trying attract ignorant renters who come to know the reality only when it is seized. Another source revolves around homes that have been vacant for months as the real owners stay away.  These are used to target people who are looking for a lease.

To keep away from such fraud, using common sense and online research is imperative. If a verification process is allowed by the vacation rental companies then go for it. The inquiry can help you become aware of the red flags and stay away from the scammers.

Some helpful tips to spot and avoid unsavory scammers

  1. If the rental offer is an online advertisement with description and photos, then find out whether the content or photos are copied from some renowned property website. If the search results show some copied content from some other rental descriptions, then put a red flag as it can be a scam. Search engine maps are also helpful as you can find aerial views or even street level images of the property.
  2. Browse vacation rental ads only at listing websites that have track records against phishing or any other scams. However, phishing schemes can steal your personal information through emails, so experts suggest using proper filters to avoid suspicious emails that mostly demonstrate poor English. Relying completely on email communication is not a good idea, as most of the rental scams are carried out through emails. If you want to consider phone calls, don’t overlook suspicious foreign or distant area codes.
  3. Don’t choose debit cards or wire transfers as a payment mode. Instead opt for credit cards as you stop a payment and report the fraudulent transaction.
  4. Ask for proof of ownership from the owner of the property to cross check the information with assessor’s office of the rental location. While dealing with agents, check whether they have authorization to sign the lease on the owner’s behalf. Confirm it with the owner.
  5. Check the credentials of real estate agents by searching in the licensing office of the agent’s state and verify the information with the information provided by the advertiser.
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