If you’re a frequent traveler or planning to go on a trip, then you’ve probably heard or perhaps have used online home-sharing portals such as HomeAway, Airbnb, and VRBO. These online home-sharing portals are changing the way people travel and find accommodations and with that change, is the increasing number of fraudsters who victimize people opting for hotel alternatives.
Short-term rental scams usually target travelers who are looking for a great deal. The most common short-term rental scam involves booking a short-term rental place online, being asked to pay in full, and then finding out later on that the place you’ve rented does not even exist. That’s the advance-fee scheme. There’s actually quite a few schemes that are being constantly used by short-term lease fraudsters, and our friends at have listed them below:
Hit and Run
"The fraudster basically just takes your money and runs in this scheme, just like in advance fee scheme" says Michael Porter a private investigator with . You’re lured in by a fake listing through a website that is using either stolen photos or misrepresented ones. The address is either fake or could be real, but there is no property to rent. Once you’ve wired or transferred the money, the scammer simply stops replying or might even pick you up, get your money and then drop you off at the site only for you to find out later that the real owners are not renting their place out.
Bait and Switch
In this scheme, the fraudster would show you beautiful properties (that are not even available) only to inform you in the last minute that what they have available is a less-desirable property because they’ve accidentally double-booked their place. You’ll be forced to stay at the less-desirable property thinking that you’re still lucky to get short notice accommodations while the fraudsters still make a profit.
This scheme is similar to bait and switch in the sense that the renter still gets accommodations but the terms are not as previously agreed.
Phish and Hack
The fraudster hacks the real rental property’s owner’s email address and phishes travelers by using deceptive emails that place them as the owners. This way, the fraudster will be able to collect payments says Toronto .
Because it is nearly break and vacation season, scams like these will be at their peak again. If you’re a renter or someone who is in the short-term rental business or a participant in the home-sharing economy, you will want to be able to protect yourself. You can do so by looking out for red flags such as:
- Emails with bad grammar. Real management companies and property owners will not send emails nor maintain websites that are teeming with bad grammar.
- Mode of payment is strictly Moneygram or Western Union. Most managers and owners would have another option to pay through a more secure means such as Paypal or via credit card.
As for more proactive means of avoiding short-term rental scams, you can protect yourself by communicating via phone or via Skype call. This allows you to ask questions as well as ask for references without the possible scammer being able to give excuses after excuses.