Is that vacation home worth it? BBB released findings of a rental investigation.
Home vacation rentals can be cheap and convenient when booking online, but fraudsters are using reputable websites to steal your money.
Last year, we introduced you to Sasha Estrada, after she was duped into renting from what she thought was a legitimate website.
"It was huge. I think it was a six bedroom house and it was for a really good price and that probably should have been a red flag,” said Sasha Estrada.
Estrada told us, she ended up wiring $5,100 to a person claiming to be the property owner.
"They kept pushing it back to the owner. For me to get more information from the owner. Deal with payments from the owner,” said Estrada.
It turned out to be a fake listing. By the time Estrada tried to cancel the transaction, the money was already gone. She’s not alone.
According to the Better Business bureau, rental fraud is widespread with 43 percent of consumers encountering a fake listing.
More than five million people are losing money in the process.
The study points out that fraudstars simply copy the photo and description of a property, post it online with their own contact information and try to get a deposit and first month’s rent from the victim.
Once the victim sends money, the fraudster disappears.
Here are some red flags for home and apartment rentals:
- The owner is out of town, and you cannot see the unit in person before sending money.
- There is a “for sale” sign in the yard.
- The alleged owner or property manager wants money through Western Union, MoneyGram, or a gift card.
- The rent advertised is well below market rates.
If you are using a vacation rental platform:
- Beware of “owners” that want you to get off the platform to communicate or send money.
- Watch out for fake websites impersonating reputable vacation platforms.
- Research the rental property owner and call them to be sure that they are real.
- Do a quick internet search.
- Look at reviews carefully. These can be helpful, but note that crooks may fake reviews.
If you’re a victim of rental fraud, file a police report, a complaint with the BBB or contact the Federal Trade Commission.