Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Avoiding Online Vacation Rental Scams

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ABC News recently ran a feature on Vacation Rental scams, focusing in on "too good to be true" deals in the New York area.

Scammers use sites such as Craigslist or Backpage to advertise fake properties, usually using photos taken from real vacation rentals. They ask for a certain amount of money up front, either via Western Union or through an intermediate bank account and then, when you show up to avail of the rental ..... they are nowhere to be seen!

From the Scammers point of view, one of the advantages of sites such as Craigslist is the fact that they don't need to register and pay for an annual listing and hence can more easily "hit and run", before moving on to the next target.

ABC's recommendation is to stick with the "more reputable" vacation rental sites, like VRBO (or you can find others listed on COHR). With a little bit of due diligence, you can be more confident that the listings on these sites are genuine. For example, these sites charge an annual listing fee and many of them clearly show how long each listing has been active: listings that have been there for more than a year are unlikely to be spammers.

Also, many of these sites feature guest reviews: although it is possible to fake these, most sites take at least some steps to ensure the reviews are genuine.

Although not completely immune to scammers, you can certainly reduce the risk by sticking to the larger vacation rental sites.

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