How do I spot a vacation rental scam inquiry?
While the following red flags include the most common traits of the scammers who send fraudulent inquiries to vacation rental owners, legitimate travelers can also share some of these characteristics. An inquiry that meets any of these criteria should simply put you on alert. Just remember, none of these red flags alone is enough to indicate that an inquirer is definitely a scammer.
The best way to protect yourself is to get to know who you are renting to. Our secure communication tools allow you to communicate easily with your potential guest to ask questions before confirming a booking.
Common Scammer Red Flags
- Demonstrates a poor grasp of spelling, grammar, capitalization, and punctuation
- Uses a free online e-mail service
- Gives you far more information than the typical traveler
- Is a religious figure, sea captain, doctor, or officer in the armed forces
- Wants to arrange a surprise trip for someone else
- Provides excuses about not being able to use a credit card (i.e. they don't feel comfortable because credit cards aren't "safe" or available where they live)
- Wants to pay by certified check, cashier's check, or unsecured wire transfer
- Offers to pay more than your stated rate
- Unsolicited payment information in the initial inquiry
- No inquiry comments or traveler phone number provided
- Arrival within 24 hours for a short stay (i.e. They stay/leave before the owner becomes aware that funds are reversed because of the use of stolen credit card information.)
- Refers to your home improperly in the body of the inquiry (i.e. asks about your lovely apartment when you own a cabin)
- Submits inquiry for specific dates but will often time tell homeowner that dates are flexible
- Gives you an uneasy feeling that something isn't quite right.
Over Pay ScamIn a classic overpay scam, the individual sends you a cashier's check or money order for an amount that is more than what is actually due. The check will turn out to be counterfeit or stolen. However, before your bank realizes this, the individual asks you to send the "overpayment" amount back to them or to a third party. For example, many times they'll use an excuse saying that their travel planner or company's financial department will be paying for the reservation. Later they tell you there was a mistake and they need for you to send the extra funds back or to a third party to complete another reservation. After you've sent the funds, your bank will discover that the original check is not valid and you undoubtedly will never hear from this individual again.
A more recent overpay scam involves the use of credit cards. The scammer will reserve your property and pay using a credit card. They will then contact you and ask for a refund by another payment type, often bank to bank transfer, giving some type of excuse as to why they cannot accept payment back on their credit card. Only after you have sent funds will it be discovered that these scammers were using stolen credit card information.
In order to protect yourself from an overpayment scam, make it clear to potential travelers that you will not accept more than the amount due and never send refunds for any overpayment to anyone.
Some scammers will send you the correct rental amount via cashier's check or money order. They don't attempt to send you an overpayment, but they are still using a bad check to facilitate this transaction. In this variation of the scam, the individual suddenly indicates that they will need to cut their trip short and asks you to send them a partial refund of their payment. Only after you have sent these funds does your bank discover that their original check was stolen or counterfeit.
In both scam variations, property owners lose by sending some of their own funds to a scammer before discovering that the original payment is not valid.
To help avoid over-pay scams we want to encourage our owners to accept on-line payments as to eliminate having a check sent in the mail. To find out how click here.
What to do if an Inquiry is Not LegitimateIf you are certain an inquiry is not legitimate you can mark it as spam in your owner account Inbox. You should also contact us with the email address used on the scam inquiry.
Lastly, please be sure to report the scammers email address to us by clicking Contact Us. If you are unsure about the validity of a particular inquiry, feel free to contact us so that we may investigate.