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Watch out! Travel rental scams on the rise

Watch out! Travel rental scams on the rise
© Nicoleta Ionescu | Dreamstime.com

The Fourth of July is right around the corner. Many people will be hitting the road, celebrating America's Independence Day. Last year, an estimated 43 million Americans traveled over the long holiday weekend.

With that many people on the go, scammers are sure to be out in full force. In fact, there are already reports of criminals taking advantage of travelers who are booking rooms through a popular online marketplace.

Watch out for these Airbnb scams

Are you familiar with Airbnb? It acts as a middle person between travelers and people with rooms, homes and apartments to rent. Basically, it's an alternative to booking a hotel or motel.

Since many of you will be traveling over the Fourth of July, we thought it would be a good time to warn you about the latest Airbnb scams.

Fake listings

The most common scam found on Airbnb involves fake rental listings. The criminal posts pictures of an actual property that is allegedly available for rent. The reality is, the property is not for rent and the criminal has no real ties to it.

If you have ever used Airbnb, you know that renters need to make payments through the site. For this scam to work, the criminal needs the victim to make payments in a different way.

They typically accomplish this is by adding contact information directly on a property listing photo. They may even offer a better deal on the rental if the user contacts them through the email or phone number provided on the photo. This allows the scammer to set up payment outside the Airbnb site, via wire transfer or credit card.

Warning! Never pay for an Airbnb rental outside of the site, it's a scam.

This seems to happen quite frequently. Someone books a rental property on the site but mistakenly sends payment by other means. When the victim shows up to the rental property, they get turned away by the actual owner who knows nothing about the deal.

If something goes wrong with a rental agreement made on Airbnb, the company might refund your money. However, whenever you send payment outside the Airbnb site, like a wire transfer, you have no chance of being refunded. The company clearly states that payment must be made through its site to be protected.

Phishing emails

Another recently discovered scam involving Airbnb is actually a phishing attack. Victims are receiving fraudulent emails that seem to have been sent by Airbnb. They are very official looking and offer deeply discounted rentals.

To receive the deals, the victim must click on a link inside the email. Instead of being directed to the official site, cybercriminals create official looking websites that spoof Airbnb.

Once there, the victim is asked to enter personal information and credit card details. If you enter this data, you're giving it directly to the criminal. The best way to avoid this scam is to know how to spot a phishing attack.

How to protect against phishing attacks:

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