Imagine for a minute that you are planning your weekend getaway. You set your budget, locate the perfect destination and even the perfect rental at a killer price. You book online, pay your money and then the day to check in arrives and you are told you do not have a reservation because you did not book through the rental company and they are booked solid. You have been scammed and are out a lot of money, time and now you have nowhere to go but home.
Unfortunately this happens more than it should but it doesn’t have to. With these few tips, you can rest assured that your vacation rental is waiting for you to arrive as planned without any hiccups.
- Book through a reputable company or website. Craigslist is great for finding deals. I use them a lot myself. However, due to the amount of scams on the site, I have taken to verifying ads by researching a bit. I simply look to see if the company has a website, social media presence or even if I call them, I get a live person on the phone who knows what is going on. For example, if Cherry Grove Beach Houses has a special posted on Craigslist, you can guarantee that it will be posted on our site, on our social media and if you call for more information, we all know about it and can assist you. If you decide to rent through an individual owner, go through sites like VRBO.com so if you have an issue, a third-party can easily be brought in. If you aren’t sure if a company is legit, call the local Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau or even TripAdvisor. Unless they just opened their doors, someone has done business with them and can verify if they are legit.
- Don’t send cash or wire money without knowing who you are sending it to. Odd payment methods are a tip-off too such as requiring payment through a prepaid debit card. If it seems fishy, it probably is. PayPal is typically the easiest method most individual owners use to collect rent via credit card payments but while PayPal is great for siding with the buyer on tangible goods, rentals are a bit harder. Also, if you do pay someone via PayPal, do not send money using the friends and family option so the repentant doesn’t pay a fee. They will not be able to help you if you do get scammed.
- Make sure you get a copy of the rental contract. If you are booking your vacation and the owner does not want to send you a copy of the rental agreement or it keeps “getting lost in the mail,” run. Run away and don’t look back. Reputable companies will give you a copy of the rental contract. Why? Because you have to SIGN IT. If you haven’t seen or signed anything (even a digital signature) before you paid your balance in full, you are probably being scammed.
- If it sounds like it’s too good of a deal to be true, it probably is. Simple as that. If you search local rentals in an area and see that most rentals are $100 a night for a midgrade rental but you can score a luxury home for $20 a night, you are probably being scammed. Now there are times when someone just wants bodies in their rentals and will slash prices. However, if you are offered a Porsche at Honda prices, know that is not normal.
Planning your next vacation should be FUN!!! And it can be as long as you are smart about your planning. Make sure whomever you book through is a reputable company (or goes through one), don’t send cash or prepaid debit cards, get a copy of your rental contract and know that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And if you do find yourself caught up in a scam, let the local authorities or BBB know or report it at ftc.gov/complaint. You also can contact the fraud department of the website where you found the ad. You probably won’t see your money again, but you can help prevent it from happening to someone else.
(And if you happen to be planning a beach getaway to North Myrtle Beach or the Myrtle Beach area, check out our available rental properties, last minute cancellations and specials. We’d love to accommodate your small and large groups!)