July 2016 - Watch Out for Scams Involving Vacation Rental Properties

 Vacation Rental Scams

I look forward to summer vacation. It's a chance to unwind with family and friends. Imagine, though, arriving at your destination and finding you have no accommodations. That happens more often than you'd think, particularly with vacation property rentals.

Scammers have not overlooked the fact that vacation rentals make up a huge market - assessed at somewhere near $24 billion a year.* In fact, it's estimated their schemes result in lost payments exceeding $18 million a year.*

Property owners and renters alike can be targets. Here are some things to look out for:

Payments that differ from the asking price - Scammers will sometimes pose as renters, strike a deal with the property owner and send a check in an amount higher than the asking rental price. When the property owner alerts them to this mistake, the scammers will blame their bank and then ask the property owner to "deposit it anyway and send me the difference." By the time the property owner learns the check was fraudulent, it's too late.

Larger properties/lower prices - Finding a beautiful home in an ideal location for a price that can't be beat should make you pause and ask why. Scammers have been known to scour real estate websites for homes on the market and offer them for rent at bargain prices. Other times they'll post phony descriptions of less desirable or non-existent properties.

Requests for cash or wire transfers - Be wary when the agreement calls for payment upfront in cash or by wire transfer. Reputable owners and rental management companies accept credit cards; some even hold your payment in escrow.

What can you do to avoid becoming a victim?

  • List your property or facilitate your rental through a reputable property management company.
  • Charge it! Most credit card companies allow you to recover your money in the event of fraud.
  • Use online aerial- and street-view applications to verify the property's existence.
  • Read reviews from previous renters.
  • Trust your gut; if you get an uneasy feeling, look for another listing.

A little due diligence goes a long way to ensuring a pleasant experience.

Enjoy your vacation!

Sources: frommers.com, aarp.org
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