Archives For Fraud & Phishing

"Warning!" on flickr, by lamoix (CC BY 2.0)There’s no question: Trust within the vacation rental industry is a huge issue for owners and travelers alike. With little or no recourse for many of the people who get scammed, the industry may seem practically evergreen to these criminals—but it doesn’t have to be.

While the details may change, the main themes of schemes seem to change little from one decade to the next; chances are you’ve heard from at least one Nigerian prince or heir since the 1990s and do little more than roll your eyes today.

Vacation rental scams aren’t so different. There are two main objectives for scammers:

  • to lure people into sending money.
  • to trick people into providing personal information that they can then use to steal their identity.

There is no way to isolate yourself from scammers, but learning the warning signs and being aware are big steps towards keeping your income and business more secure. Continue Reading…

They’re familiar, easily available, require little-if-any overhead, and are almost as good as cash when it comes to the hands-on satisfaction of having money in your pocket. But if your vacation rental is still dealing with checks, are you leaving yourself exposed?

"Check Writing" on flickr, by David Goehring (CC BY 2.0)Beyond the fact that travelers strongly prefer to use credit cards, many vacation rental owners have run their businesses using checks for years with no problem.

But as the more unfortunate will tell you, it only takes once. Beyond the misrepresentation of using a lost or stolen checkbook, checks are vulnerable to counterfeiting, alteration and forgery. There’s also the risk of a bounced check – a potentially costly situation, even when it’s not maliciously done. Continue Reading…

Craigslist is an advertising opportunity that vacation rental owners seem to love or hate — and sometimes both. But there’s no denying it can generate inquiries.

Let’s start with positives

  1. It’s massive. In fact, it’s the eighth most visited website in the U.S.; One in every five Americans uses Craigslist each month.
  2. It’s free. That’s the main reason I encourage homeowners and managers to at least give it a try — there’s little to lose and, potentially, a lot to gain.

"Duane Casting the Net", by wormwould on FlickrWe recently blogged about a common Craigslist scam: Someone creates an ad listing your vacation rental, then confirms reservations – and collects deposits – from people who think they’re making a legitimate reservation.  All this can happen without your even knowing.

When the scammer disappears, your would-be guests are left ripped off and disappointed, and you’re left with what is, at best, an awkward situation.

I want to show you how to create a “digital net” that can help reduce the likelihood of your getting stuck in this awful situation.

Craigslist: Offsetting the Risk

I advertise my vacation rental on Craigslist a lot because it works really well in my area (Sonoma). I’m always on guard when I’m on Craigslist (whether I’m a buyer or a seller), but the benefits outweigh the risks for me, so I haven’t felt the need to avoid it.   I think I’m also prettygood at spotting the potential scams.

Regardless of how I feel about Craigslist, someone using my property info is a different beast because it can happen whether or not I use Craigslist and it can happen without my even knowing. So, while I can’t stop someone from doing this, I had some ideas on ways that I could alert myself when this was happening, and I wanted to test them out.

As someone who’s tech savvy, I decided to create a “digital net” to help protect myself – and unsuspecting travellers – from getting wrapped up in this con. As a starting point, I found a great reference about Craigslist alerts on Quora. Continue Reading…

"For Rent", photo by HowNowDesign on FlickrOnline advertising leaves vacation rental owners open to a variety of scams, from phishing (where someone tries to steal your online identity) to scam artists sending fraudulent inquiries.

But have you heard about schemes where scammers use copy-and-paste and a Craigslist ad to pretend to be you – or at least, someone who owns your home?

How it works

To be fair, these scams aren’t new, aren’t limited to the Internet, and aren’t exclusive to Craigslist. However, websites like Craigslist make these traps easy to set up and more accessible to potential vacation renters.

Continue Reading…

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. Continue Reading…

craigslist sfbayFor the eleventh day of MyVR Marketing Tips, give Craigslist a try — or another try, if you’ve tested Craigslist postings in the past.

Craigslist is a free classifieds website, and people often have mixed experiences with it. However, it has some clear benefits:

  • It’s free,
  • It’s the 9th most visited website in the U.S.,
  • People do go to Craigslist specifically looking for this information, which means that
  • For low cost and little effort, you can potentially get a solid return on the investment of your time.

To pull an effective listing together, follow our seven steps for vacation rental advertising on Craigslist.

  1. Create an account,
  2. Select your location,
  3. Create an enticing title,
  4. Write your post description and call-to-action,
  5. Upload photos,
  6. Confirm your listing, renew, and repost,
  7. Avoid phishing and fraud.

One of the biggest complaints about Craigslist is the risk of fraud and phishing (where someone tries to steal your personal information). Always be wary of suspicious behavior and odd inquiries; while sometimes these may be legitimate, try to follow-up with phone conversations and always trust your gut instinct.



This post is part of our 12 Days of Vacation Rental Marketing series. Subscribe to the blog and we’ll send you an email each day with a new post.

Check Overpayment ScamThe email scam artists currently targeting vacation rental owners seem to have taken notes from the ‘Nigerian Prince’ fraudsters who’ve been around for decades. Maybe not as obvious, fraudulent inquiries on your rental property are likely to show up in your inbox. They will sound just as friendly as any legitimate inquiry, so take a look at these red flags:

  • Poor grammar and punctuation, plus bad spacing and line breaks. Especially when the request is coming from another country, this may seem normal. But the scammer may be pre-screening your patience level and naïveté.
  • Discrepancies about your rental property, such as calling your cabin an apartment suggest mass email.
  • Claims the trip is a surprise for someone else or a honeymoon. Generates warmth, creates distance.
  • Specifies dates then says they’re flexible. Or requests an extended stay, especially off-season for your location.
  • Inquiry comes from the UK or from a free email service, particularly Gmail, which is harder to trace.

Doesn’t really scream vacation rental scam, does it? Alone, these and other red flags are not enough to turn away renters. For example, check out this email from Continue Reading…

Passport International TravelerInternational travel is on the rise and awareness of vacation rentals is improving, making overseas inquiries increasingly likely for your vacation rental property. What can you do to help accommodate foreign guests and ensure they have a good stay?

International Travel Growing In The U.S.

International travel grew 4% last year globally, and the U.S. is angling to get a bigger slice of that market. “In the first half of 2012 alone, international visitors spent an estimated $82.2 billion… an increase of 11 percent when compared to the same period last year,” according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

Earlier this year, President Obama announced the Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness, an effort that aims to double the travel and tourism business by 2021.

Where will these travelers come from? Over the next five years, visitors from other parts of North America (i.e. Canada and Mexico) will account for 42% of those visits, while people from Asia — and specifically China — as well as Western Europe and South America will comprise most of the remaining 58%. Continue Reading…

5 Ways to Avoid Phishing

Jason Gruhl —  August 20, 2012

No PhishingWhat is phishing?

Phishing is an attempt by criminals to steal your online identity, typically by gaining access to your email account. Today, the losses due to phishing are relatively small, but stories like Sonia Guillaume, a traveler who unknowingly wired money to a scammer, are making headlines and bringing into question the security of the vacation rental industry.

In a recent post by Tom Hale, Chief Product Officer at HomeAway, he outlines why scammers and criminals target the vacation rental industry for phishing schemes:

  • It’s standard practice for travelers to pay large sums of money long before they stay, sight unseen
  • Not everyone understands safe and secure payment methods
  • Many people conduct business from email providers that have been repeatedly compromised
  • Cyber criminals are good at exploiting communities that rely on trust and a personal connection

How does it happen?

Usually the scammer will send you an inquiry posing as a renter in order to learn your personal email address. Now they send you a separate email pretending to be an official organization (i.e. your email provider) to induce you to enter your personal information into their fake website. With access to your email, the criminal can now intercept your inquiries and renters think they are communicating with the owner or manager. The impostor has access to your inquiry list and carries on with your business, attempting to charge potential renters, then steals the money. Continue Reading…