Vacation Rental Scams [Help Guide]

It vacation time and the vacation rental scams are as hot as ever, and scammers are getting more and more sophisticated than ever. Scammers are renting out vacant houses.

Owners in foreclosure, are renting to unsuspecting tenants. So, how do you protect yourself from the vacation rental scams?

You worked all year long and saved towards that vacation getaway, and you spot a great price on a vacation rental, right smack where you have always wanted to visit! Great, now how can you be sure that it is legitimate?

If the price is too low, it likely is a scam.

Table of Contents

Why Vacation Rental Scams Happen At Big Agencies

Image of house with for rent sign for Vacation Rental Scams

Don’t be fooled. Well known agencies get involved in scams too! Thinking you are safe just because some well know or not so well known rental service has

it listed, could be a mistake.Everything may not be on the up and up. Nope, some rental agencies only require a legitimate email address.

In some cases they continue to allow people to list even after they were told the listings are fraudulent.

The very last thing you need is to rent a fake rental, and end up in a nightmare. Do some simple research to save a lot of heartache later.

Vacation Rental Scams Happen Anywhere

Vacation rentals scams can occur anywhere, just be sure you do your home work and do a little double checking.

Let’s say you found this rental by an ad on a rental site on the web.

First thing you need to do is check the phone number listed and compare it to the agency phone number. Another helpful tip is to google the ad copy, and see if it has been copied from somewhere else.That is an alarm and a definite cause for concern.

 Check These Things To Avoid Vacation Rental Scams

If it is an agent listed in the ad,call the rental agency and be sure it is a legitimate agent.

  • Use the google maps and google search to check addresses of agencies, and owners of the property.
  • Ask for photo Id confirmation of the owner, or agent before you sign anything.
  • Do as much background checking as possible, and if something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.
  • Never give cash, money orders, cashiers checks or wire money as a down payment. This is a big red flag, something is wrong.
  • Always use disputable credit cards, never use a prepaid card. A bad charge cannot be disputed with a prepaid credit card.

Beware of “Larger Than Necessary” Deposits

If you own a rental beware, scammers pose as tenants as well. One scam is to give a big check for twice as much as the deposit, and claim some bank error.

Scammers get the owner to deposit the check and mail the difference to the scammer tenant. Only to have the check bounce a few days later. And the bogus tenant is nowhere to be found, along with your money.

The Vacant House Scam

Scammers find vacant homes that are for sale and maybe under contract or involved in foreclosure.They use many variations, but the housing slump is creating a goldmine for scams.

 Foreclosure Sign in front of a house for Vacation Rental Scams

In Florida, the sheer number of vacant homes is causing some foreclosures to take up to 5 years to close. Knowing that the closing may take a few weeks, scammers get the keys from lock boxes and change the locks on the property.

They then list and show the property, to unsuspecting tenants, acting as the owner. Occasionally, the utilities are turned on under fake names. This adds to the illusion that the scammer owns the property.

Check That Contract Carefully

Using some fake generic contracts, get a signature and a deposit for a first months rent, and the money is never seen again.And, sadly all the information you give on the bogus form can be used for identity theft against you.

Always verify the agency listing the property through the real estate license listings of the state you are in. Most states list a board of realtors, or a real estate licensing board that lists all the licensed agencies.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR)periodically ask all of its members to check for fraudulent listings. If they are found, they are reported to the listing member and taken down.

Vacation Rental Scams on Craigslist

Vacation Rental Scams-House for Sale

A favorite scam is for scammers to copy pictures of houses for sale and ads from well known sites like HomeAway and paste then on sites like Craigslist. They run sometimes the same ad and offer the properties for vacation rentals at reduced prices.

Posing as the owners, they request a wire transfer, and once the money is sent, it’s hard to track.

Scammers are Relentless

Craigslist takes them down and bans them from future advertising.However, by the time they get it taken down, the fraudulent scammer has several other properties listed under a different name.

Fannie Mae recommends the best way to conduct business is face to face. If you must deal online, request some documentation from the owner to prove he is the real owner.They can send you something, tax receipt or utility bill.

Vacation Rentals by Owner Offers Sound Suggestions

VRBO, Vacation Rentals by Owner provides some suggestions to protect yourself from rental scams. Tenants will almost always be required to send money as a deposit. That allows the home you are renting, to be placed in reserve. But, caution is absolutely necessary.

Below is an abbreviated list of tips that help tenants avoid scams. If you wish to see the complete list, please visit their site at

Tips to Avoid Scams

  • Request referrals from owners of previous renters.

  • If the property is a part of a homeowners association, contact the association to verify the owner.
  • Check with the maintenance and cleaning companies to verify owners and condition of the properties.
  • Contact listed service companies for the property and ask for referrals.
  • Check for listing reviews as well as reviews from previous renters.
  • Be sure the size of the home is correct. It should not be a mansion in areas of small cottages.

Know the Terms of Your Agreement

  • Always receive a completed rental agreement, with cancellation and refund policies, and charges of all services, before you provide a credit card number.
  • Insist on owners who accept credit card payments. Otherwise,you have very little recourse should something unforeseen happen.
  • Beware of recent listings, people who have been listing for some time are more likely to be legitimate.
  • Use well known rentals like HomeAway. Tennants have a written insurance guarantee. If your rental is involved in foreclosure or bankruptcy, or a double booking, you are covered.

Are You The Next Victim?

Anyone and everyone, could become a victim.

  • Do not wire money, beware if asked to do so.
  • If the tell you they are out of town and you have to send the money before you see the property, it’s not for real.
  • Don’t listen to someone telling you to drive over and take a look at the property, see for yourself. Of course it’s nice and it’s empty, the crooks know this, and they know you will get excited over driving past a real property. Don’t fall for it.

There are plenty of places to place ads now, It’s not only Cragslist, you also have Trulia, and, Budget,,, ect, ect. No shortage of places for the crook to operate. How do you stop them?

Ask Questions Before Signing!

Educate yourself and realize the world we live in.You have to take the time to ask questions and be sure who you are dealing with.

People will try to scam you out of your money so they don’t have to work hard for it. Always research the local rental market beforehand, and get some idea of rent you can expect to pay. Then, you will be more apt to recognize a bargain or smell a scam. if it too low,then, there is a reason why.  It’s usually a scam if is too good to be true.

  • If the rent is too cheap, it’s a scam.
  • When the owners can’t show you the property, look elsewhere, it’s not legit.
  • Owners that require to wire money first are too risky! Do not wire money!

The Vacation Rental Scams – a Variation of Nigerian 419 Scam

The FBI website issued an alert back in 2009 about rental scams that were originating in Nigeria, and were just a variation of the older Nigerian 419 Scam. The “419 scam” dates back to the 1980’s.

The name refers to the violation of Nigerian code section. The scammers offer the victims a reward for participating in the scams.This violates Nigerian law. And Nigeria has refused to offer help to victims because they violated Nigerian law. Vacation rental scams are still traced back to Nigeria.

Insist on Personal References

Established Landlords with personal references are a must before signing up for any vacation rentals. Also, look for larger rental agencies that offer a “rental insurance guarantee”.

Most of the time,it is better to deal in person.However, be sure you always establish who they really are! Ask for their photo ID and references. Insist on proof that they are the real owners. Always use a credit card. Then, problems can be disputed if necessary.

Scammed On Your Vacation Rental?

If you have been scammed or know anyone who has, report it to the FBI website at

Read More About Scams and Frauds Here

Please leave a comment and tell me how I did. I hope you feel better informed about these scams.If you have any questions, I would be glad to answer them.


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Chas The Owner Of Help For Scams And Frauds

I am Chas, creator and founder of Help For Scams And Frauds. I started affiliate marketing and earning money online in 2015. And I can tell you, anyone can do this. But, in order to build a business the right way you must have the right training and avoid the get rich quick schemes.

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