Tips to avoid vacation rental scams

Thinking of renting a house for your next getaway?

Watch out for scammers who misrepresent rentals or list fake homes online that don’t actually exist.

“Scam artists don’t take the summer,” says New York Attorney General Letitia James. “Summer plans can quickly melt away if consumers aren’t careful when booking their getaway. Holiday fraud happens every year, but there are ways to avoid it and protect yourself from getting burned.”

Here are some precautions James says you can take to avoid vacation rental scams:

VERIFY HOST

Make sure the renter or host has a valid address and phone number.

CHECK THE LIST

Make sure the listing has reviews and read the reviews. Beware of listings on websites like Airbnb or VRBO that have no reviews listed. When reading reviews, look for multiple reviews that repeat the same phrases – this could be a sign that the reviews are fake.

REVERSE IMAGE SEARCH

Verify that the photos weren’t stolen from another website. Use reverse image search of rental photos to make sure the photos haven’t been listed on another website.

COMMUNICATE VIA THE ANNOUNCEMENT SITE

Communicate only via the ad site before booking. One way scammers try to trick consumers is by first posting an ad on a site like Airbnb or VRBO, then asking you to communicate directly with the host outside of the website or app to book the ad. Do not share your email address or phone number with the host or renter until your booking is accepted.

BOOK WITH CREDIT OR DEBIT CARD

Book only with a credit card or debit card. Use verified payment sources such as a major debit or credit card, which can be traced back in case something goes wrong. One of the benefits of using a particular credit card is that you have certain protections under the Fair Credit Billing Act, which allows you to dispute unauthorized charges. CLICK HERE for four tips for disputing a credit card charge.

PAYMENTS VIA THE ADVERTISING SITE

Only make payments through the registration site. If you use a site such as Airbnb or VRBO, make all payments through the site, as they may be able to reimburse you if you are defrauded.

NO WIRE OR CASH PAYMENT

Never make transfers or cash payments. NEVER make payment using a wire transfer service or money transfer service such as Western Union, Money Gram, Zelle, CashApp or Venmo.

RENT SECURITY DEPOSITS

A security deposit may be required. As a general rule, you cannot be required to pay more than one month’s deposit. The landlord can apply the security deposit to cover any damage caused by you or unpaid rent, but must otherwise return the deposit to you at the end of the tenancy.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS

It is illegal for a host to deny you a vacation rental because of your race, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, military status, disability, or marital status.

About Derrick Hill

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