As New Englanders dream of summer fun, Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern MA, ME, RI & VT is reminding consumers of vacation scams that can turn a dream vacation into a nightmare.
Vacation rental scams typically pop-up on online classified sites. Vacation seekers will search for a home for rent in a desirable destination and find an attractive rental at a very low price. The victim contacts the “renter” (who is actually a scam artist), who then requests a “deposit” on the rental.
Typically it is requested that the deposit be sent via wire transfer. When the vacationer arrives at the property, they find that it either does not exist, that the condition has been misrepresented, or that it was never available for rent. Efforts to get the deposit back fail. Scammers typically use images from a real property to make their scams seem legitimate.
In the last year, consumers contacted BBB and inquired about vacation rentals and travel agencies over 124,000 times. Consumers also filed over 400 complaints regarding travel agencies and vacation rentals.
BBB offers the following tips to avoid vacation rental scams:
Use Reputable Websites. When searching for a trustworthy vacation rental, be sure to visit legitimate websites that are well-known. Many businesses that specialize in vacation rentals have employees who are constantly looking out for scammers and can help you validate whether a listing is legitimate or not.
Do Your Research. Be sure to visit bbb.org/boston to check out any travel agency or vacation rental business. Also search the property you’re interested in on multiple vacation rental sites to be sure it’s legitimate. Verify that all information listed is consistent. BBB recommends consumers use Google Street View to confirm the property they’re looking to rent actually exists at the address advertised.
Read Reviews. Don’t rely solely on information from a travel website or promotional offer. Many sites that provide reviews on properties have strict guidelines to ensure that all reviews posted are legitimate.
Get Everything in Writing. Before providing any form of payment, get everything in writing. Make sure all verbal agreements are also provided in writing. Review all terms and conditions, taxes and fees, and cancellation policies.
Don’t Pay Upfront. Never pay upfront for any vacation package or rental, or with a wire transfer or prepaid debit card. Use a credit card or PayPal in case the charges need to be disputed.