Whether planning to travel domestically, internationally or even to take a quick weekend getaway, remember if it's too good to be true, it probably is.
OKLAHOMA CITY – According to an Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) New Retirements survey, 20 percent of recent retirees are planning to travel.
Vacation rental stays are on the rise, across all age demographics. Unfortunately, this presents an increased opportunity for scammers. Below are a few things to keep in mind before booking your next trip.
Verify Property Exists
Scammers have been known to use false addresses or to use addresses of actual buildings that turned out to be warehouses, offices, or vacant lots. Make use of free tools such as Google Maps to verify the vacation rental you are considering actually exists. Use aerial and street-level view functions to verify that the pictures presented with the vacation rental ad match the search results. Also, be vigilant for duplicate ads. The property being for sale, having a non-existent address, or the address being listed as a business are all red flags.
Scrutinize the Owner
Many owners are members of renters’ associations. You can contact the association to find out if the owner is in good standing. Many county assessors’ offices now offer an online record search. If available, check to see if the owner’s last name matches the name on property records. Also, avoid owners who require communication solely by email, as email addresses are easily falsified. Instead, make phone contact as often as possible.
Rent Known Properties
If possible, rent a property that someone you know has previously rented. Ask family members, friends, and coworkers if they have recommendations for the area you plan to visit. If this is not an option, seek the feedback of vacation rental websites. Many provide the ratings and reviews of past renters. This information may prove invaluable.
Consider the Payment Method
A sure sign of a scam is a request for pre-payment via cash, wire transfer, or prepaid debit card. Scammers may use these methods to transfer funds and vanish with your money. It is almost impossible to recover your money once this has happened. A safer bet is to pay with a credit card via PayPal or some other reputable payment site. If there is a problem with your rental or if you are the victim of a vacation rental scam, you can dispute the charges with your credit card company. In most cases, the credit card company will remove the disputed charges from your bill until the matter is investigated.
With warmer weather right around the corner, more thoughts are turning to vacations. Whether planning to travel domestically, internationally or even to take a quick weekend getaway, remember if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.