How to Avoid Vacation Rental Scams

Written by | Updated May 30, 2013

Vacations are about relaxing, having fun, and spending time with loved ones. Sadly, sometimes vacations turn sour when unsuspecting victims book a rental property through an untrustworthy site. While lots of websites offer verified vacation rental listings, there are also many sites that either unwittingly or purposely post scams. Some scammers will take your money and run, while others will give you rental properties that don’t live up to the pictures shown on the site. Thankfully, reputable sites like FlipKey offer tips for how to spot and avoid such unsavory scammers. Here are some of FlipKey’s suggestions for avoiding vacation rental scams:

Check spelling and grammar.

When you’re looking into properties in English-speaking countries, you should be wary of emails or postings that are riddled with spelling or punctuation errors. Those who rent out their properties are professionals, and if their emails do not convey a certain level of professionalism, it may be a red flag that something is amiss. Of course, we are all guilty of a typo here and there, but if the email has so many errors that it’s difficult to understand, that’s not a good sign.

Only use secure payment methods.

You should never send payment via wire transfer or a third party. Payments should only be made over a secure payment network, such as PayPal. Before you give your credit card information, make sure you’ve read all the fine print and you understand all the terms and conditions. You should know exactly what you’re getting, what the cancellation policy entails, and how much your card will be charged. You should also get some sort of email or electronic receipt.

Make sure communication is consistent.

Don’t be scared to ask questions or double-check that you and the home owner are on the same page. Make sure that you and the renter reference the exact same address, unit number, and dates. Sometimes scammers will casually change small details, switching your dates or swapping a nicer property for a more run-down one. So, it’s important to make sure that all the communication remains consistent throughout your emails or phone calls.

Beware of posts that look too good to be true.

If you see a luxury property that offers an extremely low price in comparison to similar properties in the same area, it’s probably too good to be true. Some scammers will show photos of a great property, and then when you show up, they’ll inform you that the property is no longer available, offering you a poor substitute instead. Look carefully at the property’s photos, and see if the photos look like they’re from the same property. Ask the owner specific questions about the property or unit, and ask for additional pictures if there are rooms not pictured, such as a bathroom or living room.

If you’re planning on booking a vacation home, keep these tips in mind for a smooth and relaxing vacation. Avoid sites where anyone can post, and go with a trusted site, such as FlipKey, which offers verified reviews, a vacation rental protection plan, and owner verification. For more tips on how to spot vacation home scams, visit this helpful FlipKey blog post. If you have additional suggestions, or if you’ve had a bad experience with a vacation home rental service, please let us know in the comments!

Image courtesy of Jesse Wagstaff on

Written by Elli Bishop

Elli is a safety and security expert for the Safewise team. In her free time, she enjoys playing tennis, practicing yoga, and spending time with friends and family. Learn more

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