It can be a mind-numbing process to look for a vacation rental on Airbnb, VRBO or similar sites. You scroll for hours, looking at photo after photo, trying to find the best nightly rate and the lowest fees.
So, imagine your pleasant surprise when you stumble upon a gorgeous vacation home that you can rent for a screaming deal.
Well, you’re in for a shock when you arrive and the people living in the home don’t understand why you’re there. Or, you arrive at your destination, only to find that the address doesn’t exist at all.
This is a version of the classic rental scam applied to vacation rentals. Here’s how it typically works. You find a smoking-hot deal on a vacation rental website, so you send the “owner” a quick note to reserve the place. The “owner” asks you to wire them money ASAP. You fork over hundreds or thousands of dollars in advance to pay for the rental, the scammer sails off into the sunset with your money, and you’ve got nowhere to stay.
Scammers might steal photos from an actual vacation rental and post their own advertisement. They might hack into an existing ad and change the email address to their own. Or they might simply make up a vacation rental that doesn't exist at all.
Bottom line: never wire money ahead of time. Look out for listings that have zero or very few reviews, or reviews that sound obviously fake. Do your best to get all the details of the listing up front, before you put down any money. And be sure to go through a reputable vacation rental website that offers protection against scammers. For example, when you book and pay for a vacation rental through Airbnb, you’re protected by the site’s “multi-layer defense strategy.”