Our company was recently contacted by the almost victim of a vacation rental scam. He found a listing on Craigslist and having booked thru the site in the past began the process of booking this rental. He was contacted by the “Owner” of the property, exchanged emails, phone calls and text messages. He even received a contract from the “Owner”. At one point something made him feel a bit uneasy so he hit the keyboard and did a little searching, that’s when he found us. When he called our offices we were very surprised to hear his story and after leading us to the fake Craigslist add we were appalled that someone was using not only our property but had copied our wording and pictures of the property as well. We immediately flagged the post of Craigslist and made sure to thank our caller.
As a small local business we never thought we would be effect by this growing problem. We would never want to see any of our renters or owners in this position again so here is a short list of clues to help you avoid these scam artists and believe me they are artists this fake owner had a form with a logo, pictures of the property and even some of our terms and conditions on their lease agreement. Not to mention adding their last name to our company name as well as an email address that is very close to our own.
- The safest way to book a vacation rental is through a management company’s web site. They will list their local contact information including a phone number with a local area code and a local address on their site and any paperwork you receive. You can go online to Google or Yelp and find out about these companies before you book. Another great way to book is through the big guys (tho we would rather you come to us first) Homeaway, VRBO and Airbnb just to name a few give you guarantees for your reservation to ensure that the listings are valid and available.
- Never send cash or wire money! Real businesses take credit cards and have merchant accounts set up to handle their monetary transactions. This way you also do have recourse if something goes amiss, all credit card companies these days have fraud departments and most guarantee your purchases so if you did not authorize the amount charged let’s say, they will give you your money back.
- Don’t be fooled by pictures, anyone can copy a picture from another listing or site. Ask the management company or owner for more pictures of the listing they will always have more since they actually have access to the place to take more pictures. You can also ask questions about the location of the rooms, or the layout of the property, it would be hard to make up these details on the spot if you had never been inside the property.
- Trust your gut! If you feel like something does not add up it may not. Go online and Google the property, that is what our friend did and he found out that the property was managed by us so he called to check things out. That little search and phone call may have saved him hundreds of dollars as well as a frustrating trip up to a property that he would not have access to.
- Check the price, this is a hard one. Everyone likes a good deal but it is wise to know what the rates are in an area you wish to visit. Look around at the other listings in the area where you wish to stay this will give you a better idea of what you should be paying.
- Hire a professional, if you are looking to spend a lot of money it may be wise to go to a firm that has licensed Real Estate agents that way you know you are backed by a code of Ethics and who better to know the area.