If you are looking for an alternative to staying in a hotel, renting someone’s home, condo or apartment may be appealing. Vacation rental websites make it easy to connect directly with property owners who advertise their rentals online. However, BBB warns consumers to watch out for fake rental listings that may not be for rent or don’t exist at all.
BBB offers these tips to avoid vacation rental scams:
- Wiring money is the same as sending cash. If you wire money to a person you’ve never met, you have no way to trace it or get it back. If a property owner asks you to pay in full upfront and requires payment via MoneyGram, Western Union or Green Dot cards, it could be a scam.
- Don’t be rushed into a decision. If you receive an email pressuring you to make a decision on the spot for a rental, ignore it and move on.
- The lower the price for a premium vacation property, the more likely it’s a scam. Rip-off artists love to attract people’s interest by offering below-market rent.
- Get a copy of the contract before you send any deposit money. Check that the address of the property exists. Call the front desk and confirm the location of the property if the advertiser claims it is located in a resort. If you responded to an ad for a vacation rental property and believe that you were scammed, report it through BBB’s Scamtracker. You also can contact the fraud department of the website where you found the ad. You may not get your money back, but you can help others by getting the ad removed.
- Use a travel business you trust. Ask family and friends to recommend a business they’ve used and go to bbb.org to see their BBB Business Review. You can also utilize BBB’s Accredited Business Directory to find a trustworthy business for your travel needs.
- Get everything in writing. Get all the details of your vacation in writing, including travel itineraries, booking confirmations and vouchers. Get a copy of the business’s cancellation and refund policies.
- Pay with a credit card. Paying with a credit card gives you additional protection if something were to go wrong with the travel reservation.
- Be alert for travel scams. Unsolicited mail, email and websites offering deeply discounted travel packages could leave you out of a vacation and your money if you’re not careful. Watch out for scams saying that you have “won a trip.” If you’ve truly won something, it will be given to you as a gift. Be especially leery if the offer is unsolicited.