In the digital era, the easiest place to book vacation rentals is online. The wide variety of short- and long-term rentals offered really is unparalleled. There are many different website platforms to book a vacation rental home. Even so, using the internet to book vacation rentals can often be daunting for people, particularly those who are not confident or fairly new to the internet.
There are many areas of reserving holiday rentals online where people can fall victim to scams. However, we’ve put together this shortlist of great tips to help avoid becoming a victim to fraudsters. There are many tell-tale signs of a scam and plenty of ways to protect yourself online when booking a vacation rental. Here are just a small handful of tips:
1. Use trusted websites
While this may seem like an obvious tip, it can often be difficult to tell if a site is trustworthy or not. A simple trick to quickly determine if a website is trustworthy or not is to look for the lock icon next to a webpage URL. The lock icon indicates that data being sent to the website is secure and private. Websites have to be audited and issued a certificate to get this lock. It means the website is most likely safe to use. Most booking websites will have a lock icon, as they handle personal data. If a website doesn’t have the lock icon, it is not secure, and it might be best to avoid it.
Although this first tip is a great general check, it does not ensure that any individual listings on a trusted website are trustworthy. Some vacation rental websites have approval processes in place to curb any fraudulent listings – such as asking for proof of ownership – however, some do not. If you are not sure if the rental website has approval processes, you should try and perform some further research using a search engine like Google. More on this with the second tip below.
2. Perform further research to verify the property address
Regardless of whether a property listing is fraudulent or not, it is important to perform some form of research into the prospective property. Using Google Maps and its Street View function is a great way to determine if the house at the street address given is the same as the one in the listing’s photos. If the photos look different, then this is a big red flag that it is a scam.
3. Read reviews
Read the property reviews on the booking website, and if possible, look for reviews on other sites. You can do this by searching the vacation rental name or the property address. A large number of reviews over a wide variety of platforms often indicate that the owner is likely to be trustworthy. There is a possibility that a review can be faked too, so look for a “Verified Customer” tag if the website uses them, which many do. These indicate that the person has definitely stayed at the property and can provide a trustworthy review.
4. Communicate with the rental owner directly
Most booking websites would have a way to get in contact with the person who owns the listing. If you are unsure about the legitimacy of a property listing, a good course of action would be to contact the owner and request some form of proof of ownership. These can include Title Deeds and Purchase Documents.
Alternatively, you can also ask for references of past guests, or people who can provide testimonials of the property. If the owner is not willing or is unable to provide any answers, then you may have reason to be suspicious. Another option could also be contacting the website that hosts the listing to ask them for assistance.
5. Use a Secure Payment when Booking a Vacation Rental.
Most online rental websites allow for online payment. If you are dealing with the owner directly and have been satisfied that the owner is legitimate, then use a secure payment processor. The best way to stay safe and avoid fraud is to use a secure processor like PayPal or a Credit Card that offers protection against fraud. Never send a direct wire transfer that offers no protection in the event of fraud.
6. Stay away from Too Good to Be True Deals
Don’t fall victim to a too good to be true deal. Avoid using website platforms that are free for a scammer to list on, such as Craigslist, Kijiji, Facebook, etc. These are easy platforms to stay anonymous or pose as another person. These sites are well known for fraudsters working in other countries posing as local vacation rental owners.
7. Be Ready to Walk Away
Scammers are known to apply pressure tactics when dealing with a potential victim. Often, they will propose a renter to book quickly with urgency to not miss out. They will also apply repeating tactics to pressure you into a booking. If you are feeling pressured, it’s best to walk away.
8. Insure Your Entire Vacation
Often times you are handing over hundreds and even thousands of dollars to book a home rental in addition to booking flights and car rentals. It’s worth the extra effort and small expense to buy travel insurance that covers your entire vacation. Be sure that you take a few extra steps to secure your vacation investment with insurance that covers all of your travel needs in addition to medical care.
The vast majority of property listings on trustworthy vacation rental websites are legitimate, but it’s still important to exercise some amount of caution when booking online. Booking on the internet can be daunting, but by being careful and taking a few extra steps, you should be able to enjoy your new vacation rental with peace of mind.