How To Avoid a Vacation Rental Scam In 5 Easy Steps

Weekend palm springs

If you’re like most people, you’d jump at the chance to stay in a luxury vacation rental in a beautiful location. But while many vacation home rentals can provide a chance to explore a new place and soak up some much-needed rest and relaxation, not all house rentals are created equal. And if you don’t do your due diligence, you could easily fall victim to a scam. Because renters are in a vulnerable position, there are unsavory people who will try to take advantage. To ensure that your vacation home lives up to all the hype and you don’t get taken for a ride, be sure to follow these five steps before paying a dime.

  1. Decide whether it’s too good to be true
    There are budget-friendly options for vacation home rentals out there. However, you need to expect to get what you pay for. A multi-bedroom property listed for far below the typical price for vacation home rentals in the area should raise some serious red flags. Be sure to look at other properties in the same location to get a good idea of the average price. You may even want to conduct a reverse image search on Google to make sure the property photos are genuine. Remember: if the price or the property seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  2. Make sure payment methods are standard
    If you’re in contact with an owner (or a supposed owner), it’s important to discuss payment details. But you should never pay via money order or wire transfer. You should also never give out your credit card information through email or an unverified site. In addition, never pay the full rental balance (whether it be through cash, check, or any of the aforementioned methods) before you arrive unless you’re working with a verified travel agent. Should this person get pushy, do not give in. Otherwise, they’re likely to take the money and run. And unfortunately, they may not even own the property you’ve been inquiring about. A real owner will be willing to work with you on payment and will want you to feel comfortable with the agreement.
  3. Do a Google search
    Not only should you conduct a reverse image search, but you should also verify the property’s existence and ownership. You can use Google Maps to make sure the address is accurate and isn’t a vacant lot or warehouse. You should also look up the owner’s name, the address of the property, and the owner of the rental website (if possible). Should you find multiple listings for the same property by different owners, discrepancies in contact information, or bad reviews, you should probably look elsewhere.
  4. Never send personal information
    When you sign a lease for your own apartment, you will need to provide personal information to your rental agent and/or property manager. But with a vacation rental, the owner should never ask for a scan of your driver’s license, state ID, or passport to verify your identity via email. They should never ask for your Social Security Number, either. If someone posing as an owner requests this personal info, RUN. By handing out this information, you’ll likely become a victim of identity theft — a mistake that may take years to correct.
  5. Trust your gut
    Above all, take stake in your instincts. At no point should you feel concerned about your vacation plans. If you notice broken English, are confused by the owner’s instructions, or feel that something just doesn’t feel right, you should listen to what your heart and mind are telling you. You shouldn’t feel like you’re taking a gamble with your vacation or your future. Saving a little bit of money is never worth taking a huge security risk. Working with a trusted rental company is typically the best way to avoid these kinds of worries, but even then, you should always be careful.

Keep in mind that there are just as many high quality vacation rentals out there as there are scam artists. But as long as you do extensive research and trust your instincts, you’ll be able to find and book vacation home rentals that are every bit as magical as you’d hoped they’d be.

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