Vacation Rental Email Scams
Avoiding and Identifying Scams and Fraudulent InquiriesIt's been brought to our attention by numerous vacation rental homeowners, the existence of scammers aiming to extort money from their business. In order to protect yourself and your business from falling prey to scammers, please read below for a detailed description in how fraudsters operate, what scams are typical and what you can do to spot and report fraudulent activity.
Please keep in mind that forms of fraud can vary and new schemes are popping up all the time. Although FindRentals.com does take measures to identify and block all fraudulent email addresses before they hit your inbox, it's not rare to receive a malicious attempt, especially when advertising across many sites.
If you do happen to receive an email that you know or think is scam, please make us aware of the attempt by forwarding a copy of the email with the scammers email address attached. Although this message is alarming, fraudulent attempts are a small number among the many inquiries you should receive and we encourage you to be cautious rather than paranoid. A cautious attitude will also prevent you from misidentifying a legitimate inquiry and allow you to carry on your business without worry.
Spotting a ScammerCommonly, the person poses as a renter, agent, or business contact from the United Kingdom, Canada or Africa and asks to pay by Cashiers Check or a Money Order drawn from a US Bank. The amount they claim to send is much more than what the rental is worth (hundreds or thousands), and ask for the remaining amount to be wired via Western Union or sent back through a postal money order.
If the unsuspecting owner sends the remaining balance back before the check or fraudulent money order clears, the scammer has successfully taken their money and will not show up to rent the home.
If you happen to receive payment from one of these individuals and deposit it in the bank, it may take days before you realize the payment doesn't clear. Owners may even see a credit in their account at the time and think that the payment is legitimate. Odds are, it's a fraudulent check or money order and after you write and send a check back to the 'customer' your bank will notify you days later of the fraud. At that point, the credit is taken out, and your money is gone.
Also, take note at the type of message being delivered. If the person corresponds with broken English, misspellings, and/or improper use of grammar and word choice, take caution. Be aware that scammers will also try and impress the owner by their financial status - posing as a doctor or an important figure in government - as a form to guarantee payment. If they increasingly become persistent with overpayment or have irrelevant information to tell you, it's best to avoid any further correspondence with that individual.
Now we understand that scammers are sneaky and are increasingly getting better at what they do. Some inquiries may seem legitimate and it could take owners a few corresponding replies back and forth to realize that there is an attempt to extort money from them. Some even send an overpaid check and immediately request for the owner to send money back before getting the check in the mail because they 'couldn't calculate the currency correctly' or realized they overpaid.
At that point, they feel they have a reason to urge you for the overpayment and sometimes threaten legal action if the balance isn't received. If anybody experiences this type of threatening scam, we urge you to contact crime prevention and report the fraudulent email to us.
Last but certainly not least, watch out for blank, incomplete or incoherent emails. They may be attempts to get you to respond and divulge certain information about your property, location, and/or bank information. Sometimes, scammers request to send money directly through a wire transfer in attempts to get the owner to reveal certain bank account information. As always, contact your bank if you are confused about payment methods.
Avoiding FraudIn order to avoid the whole fiasco with overpayment through cashiers checks, money orders, and travelers checks, its best to request that the exact amount be paid. If there is an urgency to pay you with more than what you accept, request the exact amount or cease all conversation with them.
Payment by a well known credit card company such as Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express are one of the safer ways of accepting payment because of the quick transaction time.
Common sense may also be your best tool in avoiding a potential scam. If an inquiry seems too good to be true, it probably is. If the inquiry is irrelevant in regards to booking your place, it probably is. If the inquiry causes too much hesitancy to respond, or seems awkward, save your time for a real inquiry. Remember, there are plenty of eager travelers waiting to book your place.
The most important thing you can do is make clear to your potential customer, what your renting policies are and be stern with it. This will help limit suspicious and deviant attempts to defraud your business and will ultimately save you from a lot of time and trouble. Be cautious, educate yourself, and be vigilant.