ARUBA – Renting a vacation villa for your next trip can be an experience filled with memories that will last for years to come. But for some travelers, planning a vacation to stay in a rental property can turn from dream vacation into a nightmare quickly.
Every year, tens of thousands of people fall victim to vacation rental scams and the common complaints include poorly maintained properties, properties that are no longer available and properties that do not even exist.
‘With the economy still where it is, people are looking for rental properties that give them the most bang for their buck,’ said Matthew Smillie, owner of Aruba Villa Vacation Homes, which specializes in condo rentals. ‘While these properties appear to be affordable, scammers are taking advantage of these unsuspecting people.’
A common place for rental scams is online community boards, where scammers advertise foreclosed or abandoned homes as vacation homes, then take your money and give you nothing.
Another tactic known as the bait and switch is very common as well. A renter books a specific house, but at the last minute they are told the home is not available and a similar home is available for them to stay in. Usually the home was never available, or a higher paying renter came through and they gave the home to them.
‘A few rotten scammers shouldn’t deter you from experiencing a wonderful vacation in a villa rental,’ said the Aruba golf vacation expert. ‘There are ways to prevent being scammed, it just takes a little preparation and research.’
Smillie has come up with a list of tips on how to avoid a rental scam:
• Never send cash or wire money. Use a credit card that has a dispute-resolution department who can get your money back if you get scammed.
• Look up properties online, Google the address and if nothing comes up, odds are it doesn’t exist.
• If you’ve been promised a free vacation in return for a one-hour seminar, think again. Usually this is a ploy to get your credit card information so you can pay the processing fees. You should never pay for something that is free.
• Tell your bank and credit card companies where you are traveling and when you plan to come back. This way they can flag any suspicious activity if a scammer gets your credit card information and goes on a shopping spree.
• Ask for a rental agreement.
• Have a conversation with the homeowner or property management company that handles the home you are looking to rent. Search online to make sure the company is legit.
• Look for reviews or past renter testimonials.
‘If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,’ the beach villa provider said. ‘Only rent vacation properties from a company that you trust and one that is reputable within the community.’
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