CHICAGO, IL -Â The summer travel season is here and that means many consumers will try to find the best deals for travel and vacation rental homes. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning consumers to keep a watchful eye for scams.
Scammers can trick people in a variety of ways. They place fake ads online and list vacation rentals for great prices. They steal property descriptions and photographs that are listed on legitimate real estate websites, then post addresses for homes that aren’t available. Sometimes they even make up fake addresses for these listings. In some cases, pretending to be the homeowner, scammers use information obtained from people who respond to the ads they’ve posted as part of an Identity Theft scam. This type of fraud usually happens in popular retirement areas or college towns. Some people also rent an empty house, and once the real tenants return, they come home to unwanted residents living in their home.
“Consumers must always check out the property before putting money down for a vacation home,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois. “Many scammers list fake deals online in order steal money and personal information from innocent people.”
BBB advises consumers to do the following to avoid vacation rental scams:
- Research the property. Check out the property before paying anything. Do an online search of the property, with names, phone numbers and addresses in the ad. If you can’t find search results saying the property is for rent or lease, it probably isn’t.
- Communicate with the agent. Talk to the agent over the phone or in person, not via email. Be careful of foreign area codes or strange American ones. When emailing, watch for bad grammar or the person not responding.
- Verify the agent or the owner. If working with a real estate agent, always check his or her qualifications.Search licensing information for realtors at the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
- Don’t pay with a debit card. When submitting money, credit cards or PayPal are the safest options. Never use a debit card or wire transfer because these are the payment methods that scammers prefer and offer fewer protections than credit cards.