Guide: Tips to avoid vacation rental scams
Are you planning to rent a home during your next getaway?
Be mindful of scammers that misrepresent rentals or list fake homes online that do not actually exist.
“Scammers don’t take the summer off,” says New York Attorney General Letitia James. “Summer plans can quickly melt if consumers aren’t careful when they book their getaway. Vacation fraud happens every year, but there are ways to avoid it and protect yourself from getting burned."
Below are some precautions James says you can take to avoid scams on vacation rentals:
VERIFY THE HOST
Make sure the renter or host has a valid address and phone number.
CHECK THE LISTING
Make sure the listing has reviews and read the reviews. Be wary of listings on websites like Airbnb or VRBO that do not have any reviews listed. When reading reviews, check for multiple reviews that repeat the same phrases — that could be a sign that the reviews are fake.
REVERSE IMAGE SEARCH
Check that the photos have not been stolen from another website. Use reverse image search of photos of the rental to ensure that the photos have not been listed on another website.
COMMUNICATE THROUGH LISTING SITE
Communicate only through the listing site before booking. One way that scammers try to trick consumers is by first posting a listing on a site like Airbnb or VRBO, and then requiring you to communicate directly with the host outside the website or app to book the listing. Do not share your email address or phone number with the host or renter before your booking is accepted.
BOOK WITH CREDIT OR DEBIT CARD
Only book with a credit card or debit card. Use verified payment sources such as a major debit or credit card, which can be traced in the event something goes wrong. One advantage of using a credit card specifically is that you have certain protections under the Fair Credit Billing Act, which allows you to dispute unauthorized charges. CLICK HERE for four tips to dispute a credit card charge.
PAYMENTS THROUGH LISTING SITE
Only make payments through the listing site. If using a site such as Airbnb or VRBO, make all payments through the site, as they may be able to refund you if you are defrauded.
NO WIRES OR CASH PAYMENTS
Never make wire payments or cash payments. NEVER make a payment using a wire transfer service or money transfer service such as Western Union, Money Gram, Zelle, CashApp, or Venmo.
RENT SECURITY DEPOSITS
You may be asked to make a security deposit. Generally, you cannot be required to pay more than one month’s security deposit. The owner can apply the security deposit to cover any damages caused by you or unpaid rent but otherwise must return the deposit to you at the conclusion of the rental.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
It is illegal for a host to deny a vacation rental to you based on your race, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, military status, disability or marital status.