There are so many types of scams spread over the Internet, that sometimes it is hard for a vacation rental owner to be sure that an inquiry is legitimate. Let’s remember that although some scam emails are poorly written, some could have been written by a legitimate prospect who doesn’t know English all that well. Let’s remember also that there are doctors, professors and scientists all over the world, even in far away and exotic places like Nairobi. Besides, there are plenty of people who don’t know geography well enough to be able to ask specific questions about a destination.
Having said that, it seems that when an inquiry brings a combination of several of these elements, chances are that you are dealing with a scam. So, here is a list of the most commom red flags vacation rental owners should watch for:
- Very poorly written English. Very formal but poorly written English
- Sob or exotic story; too much detailed information given upfront
- Stories involving very “high level” professionals or people with very exotic, interesting careers that come from a free, anonymous account such as yahoo, hotmail, gmail and others
- Stories that mention prospect will get reimbursed by some agency, church or association
- Requests asking for your bank account information before getting a confirmation from you
- Requests mentioning that they will make an overpayment for whatever reason
- Requests mentioning that you will need to pay someone for them, from the overpayment
- Requests that sound fishy, smell fishy and make you feel slightly sick
- Requests that sound too good to be true, such as an extended stay for several months in your peak season
- Last minute requests from people who want to bend all possible rules
Obviously, not all emails containing all of the above is a scam. I’ve heard of some weird inquiries that turned out to be real – but you’d better protect yourself! The best way to approach a suspicious email is to treat it as a possible scam. If an inquiry raise these or other red flags, take all the steps you can to protect yourself:
- Don’t bend your rules!
- Make sure you get a valid phone number and try to speak to the person
- Make sure you ask for some kind of identification in advance – this may not be totally foolproof, but it’s an additional precaution and an additional barrier to scammers
- Try to get a work number, check out the company on the Internet and check if the number matches what is posted on their site. You can do the same for email – ask for a professional email address, if the person uses an anonymous email account. (But remember that many people are just cheap and love to use free email!)
- Never accept more money than enough to cover your fees
- Check where the email is coming from (IP address location) or who owns the domain
These two lists are just the tip of the iceberg as scammers tend to be very creative! So, we want to invite VR owners to post their tips on identifying scams. You can also post suspect inquiries (without identifying the sender and/or individual names) to alert others and/or to ask if others have received a similar inquiry. Please post your suspicious inquiries in this category: Vacation Rentals Owner’s Exchange. Thank you, we are looking forward to your feedback!