Why stay at a hotel when you can stay at an accommodation that feels like home!? Not only do vacation rentals make for a more relaxing experience, but they give you that go-at-your-leisure pace that we all crave when taking a vacation. Of course that at home feeling makes us all comfortable; but the issue at hand is maintaining that comfortable feeling throughout the booking process. Please read on for warning signs and red flags that can turn your dream vacation into a nightmare.
Before You Book…
1. Beware of Photoshopped Pictures
Does the saying “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is” ring any bells? If all the photos presented on the site look professional and extra glossy, you may want to ask the owner or manager to send you more. Thanks to today’s technology you can also check the property on Google Earth to make sure it exists and looks like what is displayed online.
2. Think Twice about Super Cheap Rates
There is a reason why this particular rental is uber inexpensive as compared to its competitors. If the property you are looking to book is offered at a deep discount, you may want to reconsider. Fool the scammer by doing your homework: check out other properties in the area and see what they are quoting based on the number of rooms, amenities and attractions. Remember, a deal you cannot refuse can ultimately turn into a costly scam!
3. Read Up on the Reviews
Did you know TripAdvisor was built on customer reviews? Owners are unable to read a review before accepting it. How much more authentic can you get!? That being said, please keep in mind that not all reviews posted on an account are going to be excellent. You should raise an ear if you notice all five star comments.
While You Are Booking…
1. Be Sure to Pay via Credit Card
Look at it this way: If you pay with cash, how will you ever trace the transaction if necessary? If an “owner” is asking you to wire money or use a cash transfer service such as Western Union or Money Gram, walk (or better yet run!) away now. Most credit card companies give you the option to dispute the charge which gives you the option to recover fraudulent purchases. Also note that FlipKey holds your funds in an escrow account and then releases them to the owner one business day after you check in. **Learn more about the Payment Protection Guarantee (link).
2. Gauge the Owner’s Responsiveness
At first the “owner” was probably following up with you within minutes. If the “owner” begins to shy away after you have been asking more specific questions about the check in process or the location of the property, proceed with caution. Scammers prey on those who are not too savvy. Once they feel you are catching on, they will back off.
3. Go with Your Gut
Do not ever do something that you feel uneasy about. While you should keep your guard up and watch out for red flags, you should feel a certain level of comfort with your travel arrangements. If you have questions about the property, ask them! It is always best to ask later than never at all.
When on Vacation…
1. Secure Your Cell Phone
This is a top target for thieves due to the precious notes found inside: financial and personal information. Ensure your mobile device contains a password and set a low number of login attempts. You may also want to download a security app to lock your phone, locate it and/or erase the data.
2. Surf Safely
We all want to post our vacation photos on Instagram and Facebook as soon as possible. Please beware: Oftentimes scammers will make up their own “free” Wi-Fi network. From here they can access your emails as well as your bank account. As tempting as these hot spots are, refrain from doing any banking or anything that has to do with sensitive information. Verify with the owner what his/her wireless connection is and how to access it.
3. Lookout for the ATM’s
As prepared as you can be in regards to taking out money before leaving for your trip, at some point you are going to need to take out cash. Were you aware that scammers can put devices inside of the slot where you swipe your card? Be sure to cover your hand while punching in your PIN numbers! These devices contain hidden cameras that can snap a quick shot of you entering this sensitive information. Trust me it is worth walking the extra blocks to find a trusted bank than to take a risk at an unfamiliar provider.