Scammers Using Online Rentals to Steal from Vacationers

Many times scammers use old or stolen pictures in their fake posts to draw renters

Many people plan their vacation for months, even years.

But what if someone steals your money before you even get  where you’re going?

It happened to two women coming to Hilton Head, and as News 3 found out, they are not alone.

It starts with a phone call or an online reservation. But instead of getting the vacation home of their dreams, some folks get a scam instead.

Bob Hawkins, Owner of The Vacation Company, says his agency has been hit by scammers about once a year
Bob Hawkins, Owner of The Vacation Company, says his agency has been hit by scammers about once a year

“The scam artist goes on VRBO or somewhere else and posts a fake rental,” said Bob Hawkins of The Vacation Company. “they see the description of the unit, and then starts to try and book it. But somebody else has already booked it. Then the guest comes in and there’s already someone else in the house.”

Thats just one of the scams that Bob Hawkins, Owner of The Vacation Company says has hit his company in the past.

“Someway our industry has let somebody down when that happens to them,” said Hawkins.

VRBO and HomeAway.com are using more safeguards to protect potential renters
VRBO and HomeAway.com are using more safeguards to protect potential renters

This time Beaufort County Sheriff’s say two women booked their vacation online, paid an $800 deposit, and then watched as scammers took another $1300 from their account, and left them with nowhere to stay.

“They don’t thoroughly review the details of the property they want to rent,” explains Hawkins.

Many times Hawkins says the scammers use old pictures or copy a description word for word to bilk folks of their cash.

“Look at the descriptions of the properties. Is it accurate? Is it done now? Is it something that was 10 years old.”

But companies are getting wise to these criminals, and finding new ways to stop them.

“Home Away (VRBO’s Parent company) has a way that guests can pay directly to the property manager, do away with any risk.”

Many times scammers use old or stolen pictures in their fake posts to draw renters
Many times scammers use old or stolen pictures in their fake posts to draw renters

Its a risk that no one should have to worry about. Renters should be very careful to monitor who they use, and who they give their money to, not just try to save a buck.

“They need to deal with someone who they can go back to and make a change and prove that this is not an issue,” said Hawkins.

News 3 found out that several different Hilton Head rental companies have been hit multiple times in the past few years.

As for catching these criminals?  They are online, many times overseas and nearly impossible to track.

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