Vacation rental properties on sites like Airbnb and VRBO have grown immensely in popularity over the last few years.
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However, if you’re looking at a rental property to live in temporarily, a vacation rental for your family, or whatever it may be, be sure to watch out for these potential threats when it comes to short-term rentals.
What is a short-term vacation rental scam?
Short-term rental scams are schemes when someone attempts to defraud you of money under the guise of offering you a short-term rental of some sort. The scam can be orchestrated in different ways, although the consistent theme is that a person posing as a legitimate landlord or property agent attempts to get you to sign an agreement and send money. In reality, there is no rental, or the person who "leased" you the rental doesn't own it or have the right to lease it.
If you’re looking at a rental property to live in temporarily, a vacation rental for your family, or whatever it may be, be sure to watch out for these potential threats when it comes to short-term rentals. (Kurt Knutsson)
What kind of scams do I look out for when booking a short-term rental?
Here is a list of potential scams that have previously occurred that you should watch out for.
SPRING BREAK DESTINATIONS TO CONSIDER BOOKING FOR YOUR UPCOMING VACATION
First, if you’re booking a rental property for a holiday trip, maybe because hotels are full or overpriced, some property owners will take advantage of this. If you’re asked to make a holiday deposit to the owner, especially using a third-party app, a wire transfer, or in a way that is separate from the website you’re booking on, that owner is likely taking advantage of you hoping to book their property during a busy time. They will receive your holiday deposit and then ghost you, meaning you will never hear from them again, and you won’t be staying at their potentially nonexistent rental.
Bogus listing scam
It happens mostly on sites like Facebook Marketplace, Instagram and Craigslist. However, scammers can slip by even on rental sites like Airbnb and VRBO with fake property listings. If a listing seems like an unbeatable deal for what it is, there is a chance it’s a scam.
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Click-bait switch scam
These are ads that look like a great vacation rental, however, when you click them, a less appealing property shows up. Similarly, there’s the double-booking scam, which is when a property owner gets greedy and books two families at the same place, forcing one to be a worse property for the same price.
Price change scam
This happens when you book a property for one price, and when you show up, there is a sudden price increment. Avoid this by getting everything firm in writing in a vacation rental agreement without any mysterious clauses that may open the door to price changes or unusual fees.
How do I protect myself from short-term rental scams?
- Avoid paying via third-party apps, a wire transfer, or any other way that is not on the rental booking website you are using.
- Never pay for a property in advance when renting from a classified site or social media. It can be standard for an official site like Airbnb or VRBO to ask you to put a deposit down, otherwise, do not fall for advanced payment.
- Only communicate with a host via the messaging platform that the website provides. Don’t communicate outside the website for proper record keeping.
- Confirm that the website carries out real-world identity verification of all its users.
- Be cautious of unsolicited emails: If you receive an unsolicited email from someone claiming to offer a short-term rental, be cautious. Scammers often use email phishing to steal personal information.
HOW TO FIND OUT WHO’S SPYING ON YOU
What to do if you suspect you've been scammed
- If you suspect you've fallen victim to a rental scam, and you've sent money by check or wire, contact your bank immediately to see if you can stop payment.
- Next, you can file a complaint with your local police station, the FBI, or the FTC.
- If you've given the scammer sensitive information about yourself, such as your Social Security number, consider setting up a fraud alert on your credit reports to get a notification if someone tries to apply for credit under your name.
- Use Identity theft protection to monitor your Social Security Number and alert you if it is being sold on the dark web or being used to open an account. See my tips and best picks on how to protect yourself from identity theft by searching "identity theft" at CyberGuy.com by clicking the magnifying glass icon at the top of my website.
- Warn others: If you found the rental property through a listing website, report the scam to the website so they can take action to prevent others from falling victim to the same scam.
Have you seen any short-term rental scams recently? Let us know your experience. (Kurt Knutsson)
Remember, it's important to act quickly if you believe you have been the victim of a rental scam. The sooner you report the incident and take action, the greater your chances of recovering your losses and preventing further harm.
Have you seen any short-term rental scams recently? Let us know your experience.
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Kurt "CyberGuy" Knutsson is an award-winning tech journalist who has a deep love of technology, gear and gadgets that make life better with his contributions for Fox News & FOX Business beginning mornings on "FOX & Friends." Got a tech question? Get Kurt’s CyberGuy Newsletter, share your voice, a story idea or comment at CyberGuy.com.