Coming down to Galveston soon? Looking for a nice vacation rental where you can relax and enjoy yourself? Well if that’s the case, then you need to be careful when picking a rental. Imagine showing up to your dream home vacation to find out that someone else is already staying there or you pull up to an empty warehouse instead of a beautiful beach property. And worse yet, you can no longer locate the people you gave your money to. Scammers typically post fake properties in order to catfish you out of a lot of money. It’s hard to believe that it could ever happen to you, but it is very possible as I probably have received at least 7 calls this year from people who were scammed and were scrambling for a legit rental last minute. I hope the following tips to spot a scammer when renting your vacation home will help you from getting scammed!
1. If it’s too Good of a Deal to be True, it’s probably a Scam
When it comes to renting beach homes the saying is, “If the deal is too good to be true, it is!” Vacation home prices vary based on the number of rooms, amenities, and location, such as if it is beachfront or not. It is always important to check the prices in the same neighborhood or vicinity, so you have a genuine idea for how the rates are compared to the house you want to rent.
2. Look out for Suspicious Payment Methods
Keep in mind, scammers will want you to wire money or send it through a cash app such as Venmo. Once they receive the money, they will disappear off those apps making it virtually impossible to find them.
The safest and most effective way to pay for a vacation rental is through your credit card. They provide more customer protection than any other payment method. If you are the victim of a vacation rental scam, your credit card company will most likely put your stolen rental money back in your pocket until they do a further investigation.
3. Never Pay This Way
To ensure you won’t lose your money– never pay with the following payment methods:
• Wire Transfer
• Debit card
If you are asked to pay with any of these payments, you might as well start looking for another home to rent. Scammers will typically try to get you to pay through a wire transfer. They will then transfer your money to another bank account or just cash out. After that, they close the account and vanish into thin air before you even realize you were catfished.
4. Alert Banks
If you happen to pay with one of the methods listed above, it’s very important you contact the bank you wired the money to. This may not get your money back, but alerting the banks is an important step to prevent future fraud.
5. Look for owners who have Security Policies and Rental Agreements
Many legit rental websites and their owners have security policies that they take very seriously. It is also important to make sure the owners provide you with a rental agreement that should lay out the terms, rules, and conditions of the rental.
Most scammers will not go through the trouble of making a rental agreement due to it being a very detailed legal agreement. Legitimate owners typically also require an ID just like hotels do. Real owners want to protect their homes and you should also feel protected. A signed rental agreement with the terms offers you an extra level of security.
6. Ask Questions
Real owners will be able to give you tons of advice about the area and answer detailed questions about the home and its amenities. If anyone tries to pressure you into making a decision quickly, move on. Most owners know their property will book out and there is no reason to pressure potential guests into anything.
7. Verify the Existence of the Owner
Look up the name of the owner and see if they exist. Most active owners have websites, and social media pages such as property business pages on Facebook, Twitter, etc. And believe me, these tools are not easy to keep up with. So most likely a real owner will have things updated and respond timely within the social media platforms.
8. Verify the Existence of the Property
You should use Google Maps or any other type of GPS system to verify first if the property even exists. Use the Google street view option to get a better look at the property. Scammers are known to falsify the address of the house. It might be off by just one number. Most of the time the location they provided for you either doesn’t exist or is an abandoned lot or warehouse.
9. Pay attention to the URL –Don’t be fooled by a legit-looking site such as Airbnb.
Sometimes a Craig’s List or Facebook groups posting will link over to an official Airbnb or VRBO site. Pay close attention to the URL and make sure it’s not a look-alike site. Don’t let the owner take you off the site to pay through one of the ways mentioned earlier. Before you agree to pay for anything, remember to conduct some research on the property as well as its owner. Scammers sometimes try to lure renters away from the official communication platform to fake websites, so the renter doesn’t even realize that they are being scammed. And if you are on a site like Airbnb or VRBO, finish the transaction on that site.
10. Trust Your Gut
If you feel something doesn’t feel right about the transaction, STOP IT sooner than later.
People are scammed out of money every day when trying to rent a vacation home for their family. If you follow these tips and tricks, your chances of being scammed will immensely drop and you can enjoy your vacation in peace!