'He's Taken Just Shy of $100,000': Vacation Rental Scams Are Heating Up, Know the Warning Signs to Avoid a Burn Many scam victims have taken to social media, TikTok in particular, to air their frustrations.
With the first day of summer fast approaching, you might be dreaming of sand and sun, ready to find the perfect rental property for your next vacation. It might seem like the hardest part is figuring out where to go and how to allocate your budget, but the truth is, there's something else waiting to ruin your well-deserved relaxation: a vacation rental scam.
As summer scams heat up, more and more vacationers are getting burned — whether it's renting a vacation home that doesn't exist or falling for one of the many other tricks vacation rental scammers have up their sleeves, from posting a fake listing to setting up entirely fake websites.
Vacation rental scams have become so prevalent that New York State Attorney General Letitia James issued a warning for consumers in search of vacation rental homes. "Summer plans can quickly melt if consumers aren't careful when they book their getaway," James said in a statement. "Vacation fraud happens every year, but there are ways to avoid it and protect yourself from getting burned."
But how do you know if you're dealing with a legitimate property manager versus a scam artist? Many scam victims have taken to social media, TikTok in particular, to air their frustrations. Below, two users share their experiences with vacation rental scams that fall outside of the rental property-specific fraud, and demonstrate just how savvy today's summer scam artist has become.
How can you become a victim of a vacation rental scam?
One person shared her unfortunate experience with car-sharing company Turo, lamenting that she "got played" after the car owner she rented from lied about what was left behind — despite photographic evidence to the contrary.
Another person said she — and many others — lost a chunk of money while planning a Disney vacation. "In total he's taken just shy of $100,000, and neither Disney nor law enforcement seem to give a crap," she claimed, revealing the issue was with Disney Club Vacation Points being offered up on Facebook groups.
How do you avoid vacation rental scams?
Fortunately, if you want to avoid getting caught in a scammer's snare, you can protect yourself.
"Get a personal recommendation...or go through an established company...there's all sorts of villains out there after your cash," one TikTok user recommends.
Additionally, never send money through a third-party app like Cash App, Michelle Couch-Friedman, executive director of Elliott Advocacy, tells CNBC. You should also do your own research on a rental property, as a telltale sign of fake listings are repetitive reviews or Google image searches that turn the photo up in another context. Using a credit card, which offers protection under the Fair Credit Billing Act, is also a good idea.