BBB: Beware of vacation rental scams

Call 12 For Action

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Better Business Bureau is warning of last-minute vacation rental scams.

The BBB’s Paula Fleming told Call 12 for Action vacationers are often promised cheap rent and great amenities, only to realize they’ve lost money and have nowhere to stay.

“How do you know that that home is actually what you’re getting, if you’re getting a home at all?” Fleming asked. “You have to know who you’re dealing with on the other end.”

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), some scammers use real rental listings and swap out the owner’s contact information for their own. In other cases, they make up listings for places that aren’t for rent or don’t exist at the address advertised.

Often, scammers will ask consumers to act quickly so there is no time to research the deal.

There are steps you can take to protect yourself from falling for a fake vacation rental ad.

“Pick up the phone, go there in person, ask for people that have stayed there so you can call and get feedback that way,” Fleming said. “You can never be too sure when you’re dealing strictly online.”

After you’ve done some research and decide to book a rental home, pay only the deposit, and use a credit card. If there is an issue, you can dispute the charge.

“If you pay cash, wire money or pay by check in full before you get there, it’s definitely leaving yourself open to becoming a victim,” Fleming said.

The BBB says it’s also important to verify things like the distance to the beach or other attractions before you book a vacation rental.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

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