Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Beware of Craigslist Scam

The Vacation Rental Industry is a wonderful thing

.......... and so of course the internet scammers have started to attack it. 

Someone named "Brenda" is using our Mana Kai Condo #404 in a Craigslist ad and offering it for $100/nt.  Luckily there are several scam-savy people out there who were able to find me through our rental website and let me know of the fraud.  I'm doing what I can to get the ad removed, but unfortunately there's not much I can do.  The best thing is to educate renters and be smart.  Trust, but verify!

Here are Some Tips to Avoid Vacation Rental Fraud:

1. Renting by owner is a great way to get a good deal and personalized service.  However, going through a legitimate rental site; i.e  (Vacation Rental by Owner) is the best way to go.  VRBO and the other HomeAway Connect websites have a security team and even offer rental protection plans.

2. Never NEVER wire money.  We don't allow any kind of wiring or bank transfers, but this will be the scammers preferred method of payment.  Credit cards are the safest way to go for both renters and owners since they have insurance and dispute plans.  We also take personal checks, but we require full payment a month before a stay so we can verify that a check is good.

3. Look for fishy wording in the ad or emails.  Many times the scammers don't know proper English or will try to pressure you into making a quick decision.  Here is a line directly from "Brenda's" email:
You will need to secure reservation for now if you really need it, because i do my business first come first serve and if you book it now i can reserve it for you alone.

4.  When in doubt, CALL!  I love talking to potential renters and answering questions.  It makes ME feel better about who's staying in our properties.  Scammers don't want to talk.  In fact, the "Brenda" in the Craigslist ad gives a google phone number that you can text, and states she has a hearing impairment so she can't talk on the phone.  Hmmm.......BIG RED FLAG.

5.  If it sounds too good to be true.......STOP and THINK.  It probably is.  I mean, I give good last minute deals, but $100/nt to stay in a luxury condo on Maui's best beach?   Nope.

 If you do talk to someone on the phone with an accent, that is NOT necessarily a red flag.  I mean, my father has an accent, and many people in Hawaii have accents.  Be wary about demeanor, pressure, strange email addresses, or no contract.  "Brenda" took pictures off my website and emailed them to her potential victims, so pictures and maps are not necessarily safe either.  When in doubt, ask for pictures that AREN'T already on the web.  I have many MANY pictures that I didn't post online, and most owners will too.

I want people to feel good about renting directly by owner, and as an owner I will do everything I can to make customers feel safe about the place they've chosen to rent.  Most owners, (at least good owners), will feel that way too and will do what they can to reassure you.  Go ahead and ask.  And ask.  And ask!  Don't worry too much about offending an owner--- it's better to be safe than sorry!