With Christmas and New Year’s Eve only a couple of weeks away, millions of Americans will be traveling to special destinations all across the globe.
That means vacation rentals are going to be in high demand. Lots of people will be looking for non-traditional lodging, like finding a listing through classified ad websites like Craigslist. Tap or click here to learn about 10 travel sites that can save you money.
The problem with this approach is the shocking number of vacation rental scams that are popping up. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has issued a warning about these hoaxes and offered ways to avoid them.
There are tons of lodging options these days. In lieu of a hotel, most people would rather cozy up in a rented apartment, villa or house.
Rentals like these can be found on their own websites or through online companies that connect travelers with property owners. The bad news is some of these properties don’t actually exist.
Related: How to detect hidden cameras in vacation rental properties
Here’s how the scams work
According to the BBB, when making a rental reservation you’re asked to pay in advance. Then, when it’s time to check into the rental, you discover the property doesn’t even exist.
Sometimes it does exist, but it’s still not available for rent. A crook listed a property they didn’t own, took your money and ran, leaving you stranded. Both the BBB and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have issued alerts and tips to help vacationers avoid falling prey to these shameless thieves.
One important thing to keep in mind is that trip insurance may not cover fraud. The BBB suggests using a service like Airbnb to cut down on the risks, even though Airbnb has had its own problems. Tap or click here to see how hackers are victimizing Airbnb customers.
If you want to use a travel site to book your next vacation, the BBB offers a feature that lets you look up businesses to learn about their reputations. You can also file a complaint or leave a review on the BBB site. Tap or click here to check it out.
How to avoid vacation rental scams
If you are planning to rent a vacation property, there are risks involved. The BBB gives the following suggestions to avoid falling victim:
- Beware of “owners” who want you to communicate or send money outside the rental platform.
- Watch out for fake websites impersonating reputable vacation platforms. Real websites can be copied and created with another name.
- Research the rental property owner and call them to be sure they are real.
- Do a quick internet search. Does the property exist at that address? Does the same photo appear at different locations?
- Look at reviews carefully. These can be helpful, but note crooks may fake reviews.
If you do happen to run into a scam, you need to report it ASAP. Here’s how:
- File a report with local police.
- Go to BBB.org to view a business’ BBB Business Profile, including complaints and reviews, or to file a complaint, or Scam Tracker report.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint or call 877-FTC-HELP.
- File a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
- Report rental scams to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Scams like these can totally ruin your vacation, leave you stranded and drain your finances. Now that you know what to look for, you can make future bookings without worry. Merry Christmas and safe travels!