There are many ways rental scams work. In most cases, con-artist create rental listings that may contain fantastic appealing photos to attract customers. Once the potential renter has fallen in love, the phony landlord collects an up-front deposit, leaving the vacationer to find out they’ve been cheated when they show up at the address weeks later.
Bait-and-switch is another way scammers may appeal to vacation home hunters. The scammer may show them a home that isn’t actually available and at the last minute change the location to a much less appealing property.
Today, there are more secure ways of renting a vacation home rather than just finding an online ad. Legitimate websites exist to protect renters by providing secure payment solutions, visitor comment sections and rating systems. However, even legitimate sites are not immune from dishonest cons.
BBB warns consumers of the following red flags when searching for a vacation rental property:
The deal sounds too good to be true. Scammers will often list a rental for a very low price to lure victims. Find out how comparable listings are priced. If the rental comes in suspiciously low, consider walking away.
The landlord is located elsewhere and prefers to communicate via email. Scammers might say they have just relocated out of the country for a job or missionary work. If the landlord is truly overseas, there is also no way to get a copy of a lease or keys.
The landlord cannot provide additional photos or information. Request more photos of the property, or ask to be given a virtual tour via webcam. Ask for specific details about the house. Legitimate property owners will be happy to oblige.
The landlord asks the renter to wire money. Money sent via wire transfer service is extremely difficult to retrieve. Once the scammers have picked it up, there is little recourse, if any, for getting any money back.