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BBB warns people should be on the lookout for summer rental scams

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Posted at 2:07 PM, Jun 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-15 15:07:05-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Now that summer is here and pandemic-related restrictions are beginning to loosen, many are dreaming up vacation plans which may include summer rentals. Before you submit a payment, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) says you should take steps to avoid falling into a scammer’s trap.

The BBB provided the following information:

With the global pandemic canceling vacation plans for much of the country in 2020, travel is heating up this summer. The gradual loosening of COVID-19 restrictions has led to a renewed interest in trips, both international and domestic. So much so, in fact, that VRBOs and AirBNBs are going fast.

While time is of the essence when making travel arrangements, be careful to not overlook the tell-tale signs of scammers with hurried decisions, says your Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Falling for fictional fun spots

A BBB study conducted a few years ago found that 43% of online shoppers encountered fake listings for nonexistent vacation rentals. More than 5 million consumers lost money to them.

Crooks typically copy images and descriptions of legitimate listings and provide their own contact information for the postings. Their goal: To receive a deposit and as much money as possible out of the unsuspecting victim before any red flags are raised.

“A frequent characteristic of such scams is an unbelievably low-price listing,” said BBB Regional CEO Jim Hegarty. “These eye-catching opportunities register to victims as miraculous fortune, given how in-demand VRBOs and AirBNBs are this summer. Imagine your family’s disappointment when you arrive at the house and find you have no legitimate claim to use it.”

Tips to make your search pay off

Hegarty suggests that folks follow some simple tips to avoid any headaches on these much-needed vacations:

  • When you spot a listing that’s of interest to you, conduct a reverse image search. Simply search “how to do a reverse image search” to find the necessary steps. If you see the same photos on multiple websites with conflicting information, it’s a scam. Look for the owner/host information — and if there is variance, it’s a scam.
  • Research the owner online, using their name with words like “scam” or “complaint.”
  • Once you have found a vacation rental that’s legitimate, stay in communication with the host. Check in with them a week before your arrival. You’ll be reassured that all is well by how responsive and professional they are in their communication. It will set your mind at ease knowing they’re reachable if any problems arise.
  • Watch out if the host wants to communicate with you outside of the official listing platform. Communicating through private messages gives you no protection if they abscond with your money.
  • Last-minute changes are a red flag, too. Scammers may inform you that they can no longer rent the property and begin sending you alternative options. This could be a bait-and-switch scheme, sending victims to less secure websites or subpar rental homes.
  • Confirm the location of the property by doing a street search for the listed address.
  • Get a copy of the contract in writing before sending any payment.
  • Always pay with a credit card to get the added fraud protection. If you’re asked for a wire transfer, cash or a prepaid debit card, it is certainly a scam.

For more information:

If you’ve been the victim of a similar scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker. Your first-hand experience can help others recognize scammers’ tactics before it’s too late!

For any other questions or concerns you may have regarding summer vacation rentals, contact your BBB at (800) 856-2417 or visit bbb.org.

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