How to avoid vacation rental scams



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Posted on May 14, 2014 at 10:10 AM

Updated Wednesday, May 14 at 10:10 AM

Vacations aren't cheap. Since you can't do much about the price of plane tickets it’s worth it to look for cheaper accommodations. Even the Better Business Bureau says that's a good idea.

“Hotels are expensive and a lot of people are looking for bargains,” said David Quinlan with the BBB. Quinlan said vacation rental websites offer a cheaper alternative to hotels but if you don't do your research it could be more than the summer sun that leaves you feeling burned.

“We think this is an epidemic right now because the problem is not going away. In fact, it's getting worse,” said Quinlan.

Jackie Sorlein was looking for a rental bargain when she lost $600.

She paid for the property but the people Jackie gave the cash to were scammers and not the property owners.

“I paid with Pay Pal because this owner only accepted Pay Pal. I paid that and heard nothing from them,” recalled Sorlein.

Quinlan says scammers will post beautiful pictures to lure you in. But they've copied the images from online and will use them for fake property listings.

“The problem with those type of properties it's hard to verify whether or not those are legitimate and scammers know that. So they take advantage of it,” explained Quinlan.

The bad guys will also hack into an owner's account. They'll get you to sign a contract and then send the money to their own bank account.

“They're taking the actual photographs, they're changing the addresses, they're changing the contact information and they're trying to dupe people into renting these properties so that they can rip them off and get their money,” said Quinlan.

So before you rent talk to the property owner on the phone. Also for references, check customer reviews and research the property.
“Go to Google Earth, check out the property, see if it actually exists,” suggested Quinlan.

Also, see if the website you're using does background checks on landlords and find out if you can buy rental guarantee insurance in case something goes wrong. In Jackie's case we were able to get pay-pal to provide a refund.

You, however, may not be so fortunate. So always pay with your credit card because it’s bad enough to be without a place to stay on vacation. You don’t want to be broke too.