This summer, many people are eager to travel after many summer vacations had to be cancelled last year due to the pandemic. Although it's summer, cyber criminals do not go on vacation. In fact, the FBI has reported a 17% increase in rental scams since last year.
What is a Vacation Rental Scam?
These scams are designed to lure in vacationers with the promise of low rates and great amenities. The scammer tells potential clients that another person is interested in renting, then takes payment upfront without giving them a key or access code for security purposes.
Scammers often use pictures of real properties to post fake offers. Even though the property and address are real, the property is not available to be rented. One way you can check is to perform a search by image. If the image shows up in multiple places, it's most likely a scam.
Red Flags to Watch For:
- When the host creates a sense of urgency to persuade you to book and make a deposit.
- The host asks you to make a wire transfer or pay with a pre-paid card.
- You're unable to get a hold of the host after payment is made.
- Requests to change rental dates are made.
The Better Business Bureau's Scam Tracker has estimated that Americans have lost over $370 million in the first six months of this year. The most recent scams reported by the BBB include vacation rentals, free vacations, and timeshare resales.
How to Recognize Scams
- Look for reviews and ask for references.
- Avoid wiring money or using a prepaid debit card. Using a credit card instead will provide you more protection and can make it easier for you to dispute charges.
- Request detailed information. Go directly to the hotel, rental home or airline and ask what features are included.
- Travelers are encouraged to report concerns to the FTC or the BBB Scam Tracker.
It's better to be safe and do thorough research on a rental property before packing and traveling for your vacation.