The vacation rental industry is always on the lookout for scams. Scams have usually been based on sites like Craigslist, but have recently moved to more legitimate websites like HomeAway.com and AlwaysOnVacation.com. From Barefoot’s perspective, this is an important topic and one that is under- reported by the media. Most of our clients have heard of a scam in their market, but no local press seems to be made aware or it is not deemed newsworthy. This may be in part because the victim is often embarrassed or is trying to salvage their holiday and they deal with it when they return home. In this case, it is more of a legal complaint than an emotional on the spot human-interest story.
The most recent scam is out of Palm Spring Florida. Two men, Matthew Wehling and Michael Malony, are accused of 15 counts of embezzlement and scamming more than $50,000. In addition, Maloney is facing additional charges including felony counterfeiting, forgery, and burglary according to court records.
Some ways to avoid scams are very simple. The easiest way is to book through a credited brick and mortar real estate or property management company. Secondly, using a credit card helps by providing a distinct receipt of sale and giving you proof of your rental as well as the ability to charge back. Most states have trust accounting laws and a credited agency must manage the tenants and owner funds in accordance with the law while an owner is less likely to follow those laws.
The Palm Springs police office is urging anyone who may have been victimized by the pair to come forward with any information. In addition, if you hear of any vacation rental fraud, please take it seriously and direct the victims to not only the police, but the chamber of commerce and the local media. This affects us all. If you have any tips on how to avoid these scams or have any other examples of fraud please let Barefoot know and we will post them.