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With prices rising on hotel stays, many vacationers are choosing to rent private homes or apartments on sites like Airbnb. Unfortunately, though, vacation rental scams are rising, too. Here’s all you need to know about these scams and how to avoid them.

vacation scam

How these scams play out

There are several variations of vacation rental scams.

In one version, the listed vacation rental doesn’t exist, or is in poor condition. The scammer uses online images or doctored photos to create the listing, and even makes several phony reviews.

In another variation, a vacationer unknowingly books a rental on an Airbnb look-alike site. The fake website enables scammers to capture the victims’ payment information for further scams.

More recently, vacation rental scams have taken on an even more sinister slant. Criminals are exploiting people’s kindness, using the war in Ukraine to con victims out of their money. As a means of getting money to Ukrainians, generous donors are booking vacation rentals in Ukraine without intending to actually use them. Unfortunately, though, scammers have been creating fake listings in Ukraine and simply using the money to line their pockets.

Red flags

Avoid a vacation rental scam by looking out for these warning signs:

  • The listing is relatively new, yet has many reviews from alleged past guests.
  • The listing is full of typos.
  • Pictures and descriptions don’t match up to its price.
  • You’re asked to finalize the reservation on a platform outside the actual one.
  • The owner insists on being paid by prepaid gift card or wire transfer.

Protect yourself

Take these steps to protect yourself from a vacation rental scam:

  1. Triple-check the URL before booking. Look for signs of a secure site (the ‘s’ after the “https”), and make sure you’re still on the authentic host site at all times.
  2. Verify the street address of a rental exists.
  3. Do a reverse image search to see if the photos are doctored-up or copied stock images.
  4. Never share sensitive information online with an unverified contact.
  5. Use a credit card for all online purchases.

Don’t let your dream vacation turn into a nightmare. Follow the tips outlined here and stay safe!

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