Federal Trade Commission warning of rental scams during holiday season

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Whether you need a place to stay while visiting family members over the holidays, or if you need a vacation from the holiday madness, booking a trip should not become added stress.

A warning -- after the popular rental website Airbnb went under fire following an investigation that showed different ways fake homeowners were able to manipulate the system. The Federal Trade Commission is warning of rental scams on all online platforms.

Some scammers start with real rental listings. Then, they take off the owner’s contact information, put in their own and place the new listing on a different site, though they might continue to use the name of the actual owner.

In other cases, scammers hack the email accounts of property owners on reputable vacation rental websites.

Other scammers don’t bother with real rentals. They make up listings for places that aren’t really for rent or don’t exist. To get people to act fast, they often ask for lower-than-average rent or promise great amenities. Their goal is to get your money before you find out the truth.

The Federal Trade Commission offers these warnings:

  • Don’t wire money or pay with a prepaid gift card for a vacation rental. Once the scammer collects the money, it is almost impossible to get it back.
  • Don’t be rushed into a decision. If you receive an email pressuring you to make a decision on the spot for a rental, ignore it and move on.
  • Look out for super cheap rates for premium vacation properties.  If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Get a copy of the contract before you send any deposit money. Check that the address of the property really exists. If the property is located in a resort, call the front desk and confirm the location of the property and other details on the contract.

If a host contacts you with a last-minute swap, water leak, or any other big problem forcing a change of unit, contact the company you booked through and go through them directly before canceling your reservation.

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