How to Spot a Vacation Rental Scam
Scammers are using rental property listings as a way to trick unsuspecting vacationers out of their money. Learn how to spot the scams.
Bottom Line Up Front
- Don’t allow yourself to be pushed into a fast decision, especially if it seems too good to be true—ask a lot of questions.
- Be suspicious of unusual payment requests, like wire transfers, gift or prepaid cards or using apps like Venmo.1
- Never give out personal information like account numbers or your Social Security number.
Time to Read
July 27, 2022
Looking forward to a much-needed vacation is one of life’s simple pleasures. It’s fun to look at all the rental properties available. What you may not know is that not all the listings or rental agents are as legitimate as they may seem. Here are some red flags to help you spot the frauds.
Things You Should Know
Fraudsters can be crafty, creating fake websites and ads for properties that don’t exist. They’ll often promise military discounts and other incentives to lure people in. Some scammers steal real ads, changing the email address or contact information and then posting them on a different website. Others boldly pose as rental agents, using stolen keys to gain access to properties. And still others offer properties for rent that have already been rented.
Their favorite places to operate include vacation rental platforms like Airbnb or Vrbo. Travelers have reported problems like:
- Being tempted with luxurious surroundings and amenities, then finding out the rental is located in a sketchy neighborhood and/or it’s in rundown condition
- Receiving reservation cancellations less than 24 hours before arrival, with no offer of a complete refund
- Getting a last-minute notice of a problem and offer of an alternative property the host owns—which turns out to be in terrible condition
- Arriving at a vacation destination only to find that the property doesn’t exist
Things You Can Do to Protect Yourself
Now that you’re armed with information on some of these scammers’ favorite ploys, you can protect yourself. As a general rule, while you’re evaluating your choices, be wary of options that seem too good to be true. Here are more tips:
- Make sure there are more ways to contact the owner or agent than just email.
- Don’t allow yourself to be rushed into a decision.
- Ask questions about the area like places to eat and the distance to beaches or amusements. This will help you tell how well the listing agent knows the area.
- Investigate the rental company with searches that include “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” If you find negative comments, consider looking elsewhere.
- Make sure the address is real. Check the address using Google Map’s street view. Does the property match the picture in the listing? If it’s a resort or hotel, call the front desk to verify the information. If it’s a private home, check the name of the property owner in public records.
- Don’t pay for rentals by wire transfer, prepaid or gift cards or apps like Venmo. These types of transactions can’t be reversed if the rental offer is fraudulent.
- Never give out personal information like account numbers or Social Security numbers. Some fraudsters will offer to debit the cost directly from your bank account, so keep your personal information secure.
- Be skeptical of last-minute alternatives if you’re told there’s a problem with the space you rented. If you’re using a platform like Airbnb, make sure the host cancels, so you’re not charged additional fees. Ask the platform—instead of the host—to find you alternatives.
Enjoy Zero Liability Protection With Navy Federal
All Navy Federal Credit Union Credit Cards offer Zero Liability policy protection against unauthorized transactions. If you suspect you’ve been a victim of fraud, you can call us 24/7 at 1-888-842-6328. To learn more ways to protect yourself against fraud, visit Navy Federal’s Security Center.
- If you’re ready to start looking for vacation rentals, search for your desired attributes and then vet each property—look for reviews on the property owner’s page, ways to contact them, addresses posted on listings, etc.
- Look into adding getting a credit card with Zero Liability protection at your banking institution, or use your Navy Federal Credit Card to book vacations.
VENMO is a trademark and brand of PayPal, Inc.↵
This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.