An apartment in Paris. A villa in Tuscany. A cottage by the lake, or a home by the beach. In recent years, more travellers have been thinking outside of the hotel and looking for accommodations that offer a new experience -- and a lower price tag.
Unfortunately, vacation rental scams are quickly becoming part of our fraud vocabulary. Well-meaning travellers have responded to vacation rental listings only to discover their dream rental is actually somebody's home -- like one Fort Lauderdale homeowner who had Canadian vacationers show up on his doorstep (as reported by Canoe News). In some cases, that luxurious online rental doesn't exist at all.
Some homes are actually for sale, with clever scammers using property listings for descriptions and photos and hacking real estate databases for confidential information about owners. In some cases, like this scam incident in New Jersey, vacationers have been told to pick up their keys at the real estate office where the home is listed.
People who post legitimate rentals can also be the targets of business identity theft -- and find their accounts on popular vacation rental sites being compromised. For example, there's the case of Shauna Kattler, who thought she was wiring her deposit to the legitimate owner but sent it to a scammer instead. Crooks have even caught experienced travellers, like this New York Times travel blogger. In this case, the property was supposedly foreclosed but a refund wasn't forthcoming.
While poor grammar, missing details and a lack of contact information used to be good indicators of a scam, fraudulent listings are getting more and more sophisticated, warn experts.
NEXT: How to Stay Clear of the Scams
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