Whether your destination is the white sandy beaches of Barbados or the snow-capped peaks of Colorado, vacation rentals are becoming a popular choice for travelers seeking a unique and authentic vacation experience. Today, the internet allows homeowners to easily advertise homes and travelers to quickly book them.
Unfortunately, with the rise in popularity of vacation rentals has come a rise in scams. The Better Business Bureau has recently warned travelers to be aware of a variety vacation rental scams. Sometimes fraudulent rental homes are legitimately listed on other sites, or sometimes a home may not even be for rent, and often scammers “phish” for account information enabling them to hack the homeowner’s accounts. Though the rise in scams is frustrating, there are some simple precautions you can take to avoid scams when you book you next vacation.
Use reputable websites. Although well-known rental sites have occasionally been the targets of fraudulent activities, companies that specialize in vacation rentals have staff who are constantly on the lookout for potential scams, and can help you validate whether a listing is legitimate or not.
Do your research. Search the home you want to book on other sites; sometimes vacation rental companies will list homes on multiple platforms. If you find the rental on another website, verify that the contact information is consistent. If the contact number is that of a local property manager or a booking agency, visit the company’s website to validate that it’s legitimate.
Read the reviews. Many sites have guidelines dictating the process of posting reviews. For example, on VRBO and HomeAway, renters must prove their identity and prove that they have actually stayed in the home. Consider what travelers had to say about the home and how owners responded to traveler feedback. What does it say about the home? What does it say about how the owners handled particular situations?
Get the agreement in writing. Review the terms and conditions and be aware of any suspicious loopholes before you make a payment.
Don’t rely solely on email. Follow up with the owner, property manager, or booking agency on the phone. Beware of foreign numbers or unresponsive contacts.
Pay with a secure method. Never wire money and avoid using cash. Instead, pay with a credit card or PayPal. If something goes wrong, you can dispute the charges.