Travelers Must BE Warned About Vacation Rental Scams, Says Better Business Bureau

June 28, 2013
The warm summer months are a busy time to travel. Since traveling can be expensive, a lot of consumers try to find the best deals when looking for vacation rental homes. However, if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Scam artists can fool people in a variety of ways. They place fake ads online, listing vacation rentals for great deals. They steal property descriptions and photographs that are listed on legit real estate websites, or they post addresses from homes that aren’t up for rent. Some even make up a fake address. After posting the ad, scam artists extract personal information from people who respond, and they pretend to be the owner. Usually, these techniques are used for properties in college towns or popular retirement areas. Some people also rent an empty house. Once the real residents return, they come home to unwanted residents in their home.

Vacationers are always looking for the best deal when planning a trip. But it is important to check out the property and real estate agency before putting down money for a vacation home. There are many scanners who list fake deals to take large amounts of money from innocent people.”

BBB advises consumers to do the following to avoid vacation rental scams:

· Search the property. Check out the property before paying anything. Do an online search of the property, with names, phone numbers and addresses in the ad. If you can’t find search results saying the property is for sale, it probably isn’t.

· Communicate with the agent. Talk to the agent over the phone, not via email. Be careful of foreign area codes or strange American ones. When emailing, watch for bad grammar or the person not responding.

· Don’t pay with a debit card. When submitting money, credit cards or PayPal are the safest options. Never use a debit card or wire transfer because these are the payment methods that scammers prefer.

· Verify the agent or the owner. If working with a real estate agent, always check his or her qualifications. Search licensing information for both with the Association of Real Estate License Law Officials.

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As a private, non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote an ethical marketplace. BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. BBBs also review advertising claims, online business practices and charitable organizations. BBBs develop and issue reports on businesses and nonprofit organizations and encourage people to check out a company or charity before making a purchase or donation.