Avoiding Vacation Rental Rip-Offs

Today it’s easy to find a vacation rental online. And although there are a lot of great deals out there, there are also a number of scams. For example, many scammers steal photos and descriptions from legitimate rental sites online, and then paste them on their own scam rental sites. Not only do they get deposit money from unsuspecting renters, but they also get personal information they can use to steal their identity.”

With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you weed out online vacation rental scammers.

  • Be wary of incredible deals. If you find a five bedroom house on the ocean for $20 a week, chances are it’s probably a scam. A good rule of thumb is, that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Google a chunk of text that describes the rental, to see if it pops up anywhere else. Although some owners list their vacation rentals on more than one site, sometimes you can turn up a scam this way.
  • Talk by phone if at all possible, and be wary if the person speaks broken English. Also be wary of poorly written e-mails, or if the owner only wants to communicate by e-mail.
  • Never use a wire transfer or a prepaid debit card to pay for your vacation rental. These are the preferred methods of payment for scammers, because unlike credit cards and traditional debit cards, these transactions cannot be reversed.
  • Get the address of the rental property and search for it in Google maps street view. If it’s an empty field, chances are you’re dealing with a scammer.
  • Ask the owner to show you the interior of the rental on Skype. That way you know at least he has access to the property.
  • Contact the assessors office in the county where the property is located, to confirm where the tax bill is sent. Make sure that name matches the name on the lease.
  • Finally, read the comments from past renters, and be wary if there are no comments. Granted the lack of comments may indicate that there wasn’t anything really good or really bad about the property, but it may also indicate that it has never been rented.

In the end, with a little homework and attention to the small details, you’ll be a savvy consumer, and come away with a great deal on a legitimate vacation rental.