By Adam Zippin
Over the past few months, the vacation rental industry has seen a rise in both the frequency and the amount of reported fraudulent rental properties. An article published in the Washington Post details the fraud experience of two different people and their experience with VRBO.com. Here at Barefoot we began to wonder what is more reliable, Insurance or Trust.
The article, “The Navigator: Rental scams are a growing problem”, describes two different encounters where people were asked to wire transfer money to an owner that they connected with via VRBO.com. Today, most people use a credit card to do a transaction, however, both were told that due to the last minute nature of the deal they were looking for, a wire transfer and that was the only means.
Both Tenants booked through VRBO.com which is a reputable rental site and it would seem more complicated to commit fraud as the web site charges for listings and should have record of owner contact information. So one would think Fraud would be minimal. That is obviously incorrect. Carl Shepard, co-founder of HomeAway.com stated that “They’re not renting from VRBO, Instead, they are being connected to one of 625,000 property owners through the site.” Furthermore VRBO has had 352 secondary phishing incidents this year alone and says that ”customers who hold the site responsible for phishing attacks don’t understand how VRBO works”. 352 while not a huge number is pretty significant if you are one of those who was defrauded. In addition, as online transactions are common place, if Amazon had 352 fraud claims against them in a year that would be significant.
The existence and success of sites like VRBO.com is based on the insurance offered through their reputation. By using these sites, people expect a level of corporate security believing that it would be impossible to be scammed through a company so large. In fact VRBO.com offers a “Carefree Rental Guarantee” for its tenants at an additional fee. This insurance covers against foreclosure of the rental home, wrongful holding of a security deposit, and if the property is misrepresented. Based on this insurance, the renter is not covered from fraud, natural disaster, a sickness resulting in cancellation of the trip, or any other dispute not directly under the three described coverage areas. So what happens when these companies, who we utilize for their insurance, fail to provide it?
The answer is by looking somewhere we can trust, professional property management companies. These companies make it their profession to look after and maintain vacation rental homes year round. Many times it takes a little more in depth searching to find these companies as they do not have the marketing budgets to keep up with the industry monsters. But what they offer is more substantial, they offer a sense of trust. These companies are held accountable through the states within which they operate and can face charges if fraudulent practices are made. The management company personally interacts with the home owners and is not merely a communal meeting ground, rather an effective business guide.
If you are planning to go on vacation, please read the blogs here at Barefoot.com for advice and tips. If you still have any questions, visit http://scamwarners.com to set your mind at ease. If your Barefoot software has helped you or a tenant through a situation like this please let us know.