3 Types of Vacation Rental Scams and How to Stay Safe

Last Updated on: 22nd November 2023, 11:42 am

Running a booking website can be a profitable way to make money, especially nowadays that tourism is picking up the pace once again. At the same time, it’s also a huge responsibility both in terms of keeping your customers safe from scams as well as complying with government regulations.

To weed out the bad actors, be on the lookout for the following vacation rental scams:

  1. Falsified listings

This is the most typical one of all. Instead of describing a real property in their possession, the scammer would post photos taken from somewhere else and claim to be their own. The customer is asked to pay in advance, and as soon as they do, their money is gone and whoever posted the listing is never to be heard from again.

  1. Bait-and-switch

A bait-and-switch scheme involves a fraudster posting an ad just like a legitimate property owner would. The issue is, once someone books it, they are secretly sent to another place that looks nothing like the one portrayed in the photos (and not in a good way). Although not as bad as losing their money for nothing, the customer is swindled into paying a premium for goods and services of lesser quality.

  1. Ad hijacking

There have been known instances where a scammer would take an ad from a legitimate website and modify the contact details part. Whoever decides to message them wouldn’t be able to get in touch with the real owner; instead, who’d reply is the kind of person who intends to spam, scam or defraud the customer at some point down the line utilizing phishing techniques or other means of stealing their sensitive personal information.

How to mount a defense against scammers in the vacation rental business

As a responsible business owner, it’s your obligation and duty to take necessary measures to fight fraud. Therefore, you should:

– Educate your users. If a listing’s price seems a bit too low for what they’re getting in exchange, instruct them to take it as a red flag. At the same time, advise them against clicking on links they don’t recognize and have them monitor their browser’s URL bar so as to ensure they’re on the legitimate website.

– Verify the ad publishers’ identity using vacation rental scam solutions software. Oftentimes, bad actors may try to present a false ID since they don’t want to be caught red handed committing fraud. Modern ID verification software tends to be AI-based and it checks multiple factors that the government-issued ID belongs to a legitimate individual.

– Warn your users that paying upfront is not recommended and that you cannot provide any protection or guarantees once the money leaves their hands. If you have the technical knowledge necessary, consider implementing some kind of an escrow system to ensure both parties involved actually get what they signed up for.


When everything is said and done, a healthy dose of skepticism will help you keep the bad actors off the platform and allow your customers to have a great user experience free of scams and fraud. There are several ways to approach the matter and we’ve unveiled some of them in the tips provided above.

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