Criminals don’t just post fake home sales or apartment rentals online. They also advertise fake summer rentals. Take safety precautions before making a deposit.
NEW YORK – Scammers don’t take the summer off, says New York Attorney General Letitia James in a release. Vacation fraud happens every year, but there are ways to protect yourself from getting burned.
Steps to avoid vacation rental fraud
- Verify the host. Make sure the renter or host has a valid address and phone number.
- Confirm the listing has reviews and read them. Be wary if listings on websites like Airbnb or VRBO don’t have any reviews listed. Also, when reading reviews, look for red flags. Multiple reviews that seem to repeat the same phrases could be a sign the reviews are fake.
- Check the photos. Make sure they haven’t been stolen from another website. Use a reverse image internet search of the photos to find out if they also appear on another website.
- Communicate only through the listing site before booking. One way scammers try to trick consumers is posting a listing on a legitimate site like Airbnb or VRBO. Once a renter expresses interest, however, the rental owner than requires them to communicate directly outside the website or app to book the property. James also suggests that potential renters should never share their email address or phone number with a host before a booking has been accepted.
- Use a credit card or debit card. Verified payment sources, such as a major debit or credit card, can be traced in case something goes wrong. One additional advantage of a credit card is that it offers some protections under the Fair Credit Billing Act, which allows users to dispute unauthorized charges.
- Make payments through the listing site. If using a known legitimate site such as Airbnb or VRBO, make all payments through the site. They may be able to refund you if you’re later defrauded.
- Never make wire payments or cash payments. On the flipside, never make a payment where the money can’t be traced, such as a wire transfer or money transfer service like Western Union, Money Gram, Zelle, CashApp or Venmo.
- Rent security deposits. Generally, you cannot be required to pay more than one month’s security deposit. The owner can apply the security deposit to cover any damages caused by you or for unpaid rent, but otherwise must return the deposit to you at the conclusion of the rental.
- Know your rights. It’s illegal for a host to deny a vacation rental based on race, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, military status, disability or marital status.
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