6 Signs Your Vacation Rental Inquiry Is A Scam

Jonathan Murray —  March 14, 2013

Scam AlertScam artists tend to be repetitive; they scheme a new plan and then try to lure different owners until one falls for the bait.

I’ve received quite a few scam inquiries only to confirm, after a quick Google search, that other owners have received the same email – word for word. While scammers are always working to concoct new schemes that are harder to detect, many continue to use the same ones over and over again.

Here are six signs that your inquiry is a scam:

  1. Bad grammar, spelling and punctuation. Faulty spacing and line breaks fall into this bucket too.
  2. The inquiry comes from an international location like the UK and uses a generic email address on Google or Hotmail, often containing numbers. (i.e. james357@hotmail.com)
  3. The sender provides a lot of unnecessary information.
  4. There are discrepancies about your rental property, such as calling your cabin an apartment or referring to your three bedrooms when you only have two.
  5. The inquiry claims the trip is a surprise for someone else, a honeymoon, or a work-related trip with coworkers.
  6. Specifies dates, then says any dates will work.

Alone, none of these are cause for alarm. Put a few of them together, however, and you can all but guarantee you’re dealing with a scammer.

If you didn’t detect the scam at first pass and started communicated with the so-called traveler, don’t be alarmed yet. Even if you’ve agreed to rent to a scam artist, you may notice additional signs and be able to call it off before any real damage has been done.

This is where they start to create an urgency around the payment – even if they’re not due to stay at your rental for some months. They will claim to have overpaid and request that you immediately send the difference via Western Union or by sending payment to a third party, usually a fictitious “travel planner.”

Check out this sample and see the steps you should take if you find yourself caught in the middle of a scam.

photo credit: Junk Mail

Jonathan Murray

Jonathan Murray


Before starting MyVR, he co-founded Lift Media (acquired), a lead generation company that worked with clients like American Express, Netflix, and Fandango. He started MyVR after being frustrated with setting up his own Sonoma cottage as a vacation rental. He studied engineering at Bucknell University and received his MBA from Stanford University.
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3 responses to 6 Signs Your Vacation Rental Inquiry Is A Scam

  1. Those are very good tips. Another problem we get is people wanting to over pay. Then the person enquiring asks for the balance back via Wester Union. We haven’t actually fallen for that, but that is a very common scam in all industries.

  2. Excellent article. Short to the point with good content.
    I would also add that once they start communication with you they will continually ask questions (layout of house – which you can’t attach through the rental website reply). Asking new questions with greater detail than the regular client usually creates an easy rapport with you. Don’t let your guard down by replying through your personal e-mail address. This is exactly what they want! Soon enough they will have access to your site and start defrauding your clients.

  3. Great point, Nancy. Thanks!