June 11, 2021
Want to Get Away? Don’t Get Scammed!
by Zachary Pyers, Esq., & Kenton Steele, Esq., Reminger Co., L.P.A.
Nearly every part of our daily lives is evolving to incorporate the benefits offered by new technologies and business models. While these changes can offer convenience, they may also create uncertainty. The travel industry is no exception. And as the pandemic in the United States starts to slow and America begins to reopen, the demand for travel has exploded.
In searching for vacation deals, people may look to property rentals through companies like Airbnb and Vrbo. These companies, which provide a marketplace where homeowners can offer property rentals directly to customers, have recently grown in popularity. This growth is partially due to the promise of a unique travel experience and an alternative to hotels. But these new businesses also create new opportunities for scammers.
One common scam involving rental companies is the classic bait and switch, in which the customer books a stay online, and minutes before they are supposed to check in, the host calls, stating that there was an unforeseen issue with the property that prevents the customer from staying there. Oftentimes, the host will blame an unfixable plumbing or electrical problem. The host then offers a different property located nearby. Upon arrival at the back-up location, the customer discovers a property that is not nearly as nice as the original.
Another common scam occurs when hosts request payment outside of the app. Usually, the host offers some sort of incentive for outside payment, such as a lower rate or a perk upon arrival. Scammers often claim that outside payment is either more convenient or allows both parties to avoid service fees. A request for outside payment is a red flag because it allows the host to bypass the company’s standards or disappear after receiving payment.
One way to avoid becoming a victim is educating yourself about common scams that take place. Customers should scrutinize a host’s profile. Be suspicious of profiles with stock photos and poor or obviously phony reviews. Before booking online, be aware of the company’s cancellation and fraud-reporting policies. Finally, if you pay with a credit or debit card, familiarize yourself with your rights through the card’s issuer, which may include the ability to recover payments made to a fraudulent renter. Being aware of common scams, how to avoid them, and knowing what to do if you are the victim of vacation rental fraud will help ensure your vacation offers rest and relaxation.