Scammers prey on vacation renters

As the weather begins to warm up and the school year begins to wind down, many are starting to plan a summer vacation. Whether you’re looking to visit family or simply go on an adventure, your Better Business Bureau wants you to avoid scams, unethical businesses or confusion while looking for a place to stay.

The BBB processed thousands of complaints about vacation rentals last year. Vacation rental scammers may create online listings with photos of homes that aren’t available or are owned by someone else. Phony landlords collect an advance deposit then avoid contact with renters who may be left with nothing but a fake reservation or a rental that has no resemblance to the photos that were online.

Some warning signs of a scam include difficulty communicating with the landlord. Be skeptical if they ask to communicate only by email or don’t list a phone number or a physical address. A request that you pay using a wire transfer or prepaid money card is a sure sign of a scam.

BBB recommends travelers do their research, look up the owner of any vacation rental by searching for their name or address online, especially if you can’t find any online reviews or evidence of complaints. Also, ask for a copy of the rental contract and read it before you pay the deposit. Check if there are extra security deposits or cleaning fees. One way to safeguard yourself is to pay with a credit card, in case you need to dispute the charge later.

A vacation rental can be just one part of your summer vacation. The Federal Trade Commission recommends vacationers use travel apps to manage their itinerary, see upcoming hotel deal or airfare alerts. They say planning ahead can be your biggest weapon against getting scammed.

While planning and doing your research are key components, simply taking time to read the fine print can eliminate confusion or unexpected fees. For airlines, pay close attention to luggage restrictions and flight cancellation policies. If you are planning a road trip, download the BBB App so you can ensure that if you do have car problems you can find a reputable and trustworthy mechanic in that area to help you make repairs. Find it at bbbapp.org.

Ultimately taking a few precautions and researching your plan, can help you avoid scams and unforeseen problems as you head down the road. For more travel tips and information, go to bbb.org.


Jeremy Johnson is the eastern Idaho marketplace manager for Better Business Bureau, serving the Northwest and Pacific. Contact her at by emailing jeremy.johnson@thebbb.org.


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