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How to Avoid Being Scammed on Vacation Rentals


Summer is on the horizon, a time when millions of people take much-needed vacations. Depending on where someone wants to travel, the time of year, and the amount of time allotted for booking accommodations, more conventional motels, hotels, and bed and breakfast inns may have no vacancy.

Rather than cancel the vacation, there is an alternative of renting a private home. Although most homeowners who rent out their homes for vacationers are 100 percent honest, unfortunately some are not. This means that sometimes, people get scammed.

When searching different opportunities, being scammed is relatively easy. According to the Vacation Rental Managers Association (VRMA), up to 24 percent of vacationers stay in a private home. Compared to numbers in 2008, that is up 11 percent, showing this to be a growing trend. However, it is essential for people to know how they can avoid being scammed.

Popular Home Finders

Thanks to the internet, people have a variety of options for finding vacation homes. Keep in mind that regardless of the source, precautions need to be taken. Among the thousands of possibilities, below are some of the most widely used sources for finding a private vacation home.

  • Airbnb
  • Craigslist
  • HomeAway
  • VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner)

Some of these organizations such as Airbnb and HomeAway go to great lengths to protect both the homeowner and the vacationer while other sites are not as strict or heavily monitored.

Common Scams

The list of possible scams is extensive as criminals become more and more sophisticated. However, as reported by AARP and other experts, there are many ways people get scammed.

  • Beautiful photos of fictitious or inadequately represented properties
  • Descriptions used to entice that do not match what the property is or offers
  • Significantly discounted prices
  • Demand for a deposit prior to an executed contract
  • Bait and switch where one property is shown yet unavailable
  • Double booking

The problem is that after showing up, vacationers find the property to be nothing like advertised or they never receive a contract after sending money for a down payment.

Protection for Vacationers

To avoid being scammed, vacationers have several viable options for protection.

  • Book a private home through a reputable service. Using a professional management company to find a private vacation home is highly recommended.


  • Conduct independent online research. In addition to information received, additional and in-depth research should be conducted.


  • Never depend on photography alone. Although some properties will look exactly like photographs provided, if all photos are extraordinary use Google Map’s Street View to get a closer look. Another option is to have someone trusted in the area, perhaps a realtor or friend, drive by the property to take photographs for the vacationer.


  • While low priced properties are not necessarily a scam, as the saying goes, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


  • At no time should any vacation property be paid for in cash or through Western Union or MoneyGram. Instead, a credit card or cashier’s check is recommended.


  • It also helps to read online forums to gain insight into what previous vacationers have to say about a specific property.


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