You might be dreaming of a long vacation in the tropics of Bali, or a cabin in the mountains in Colorado. Or, you could see a few stunning pictures of beachfront Hawaii condos and want to book a ticket right away.
But not all vacation rentals are as legitimate as they might seem from the beautiful photos. Some scammers will take advantage of unsuspecting travelers, sending them to lodgings that aren’t nearly as nice as advertised. Other times, they could take your money and send you to nowhere at all, leaving you stranded!
Learn more about how to spot and avoid vacation rental scams with the following travel tips.
There are a few ways to spot a vacation rental scam from a mile (or many miles) away.
First, notice the pictures. Travel photos are often beautiful, but do the vacation rental photos look fishy at all? They could be stock photos or borrowed from elsewhere. Reverse image research the photos and see if you can find them anywhere else before you make any bookings.
Don’t send any money until you have verified the platform’s legitimacy. It’s best to send booking fees with your credit card or PayPal rather than with a wire transfer or by some other means, as you can report a scam easily to PayPal or your bank and usually get your money back if it turns out that you’ve fallen victim to a vacation rental scam.
If a company or individual is demanding that you send the fees with a wire transfer service like MoneyGram or Western Union, or through alternative means such as bitcoin, you might have a travel scam on your hands.
Especially if you are not familiar with an area, it’s often best to make your booking through a well-vetted vacation rental or hotel booking service, such as Hotels.com or AirBnB.
Although some vacation rental scams can happen on big sites like this, you’ll likely have more consumer protections than if you book through an individual or a smaller, lesser-known site. You could even get a full refund if you report the travel scam to the site’s owners.
If you do find a vacation rental you really want on a different platform, contact the owners and ask for verification or reviews. If they are legitimate renters, this should be easy enough.
If you’re still not sure, look up the organization’s name on the Better Business Bureau or Yelp and look for customer reviews or reports of scams.
Report any travel scams you notice immediately to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).