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BBB warns of vacation rental scams over the holidays

Last Updated Dec 10, 2019 at 10:29 am PDT

FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018 photo, towels are placed in an apartment located on Airbnb in Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

The BBB says consumers need to watch out for fake vacation rental listings this holiday

As many as 43 per cent of users have encountered fake listings, and over five million have lost $500

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – If you’ve arranged a vacation rental property for the holidays, is it legitimate? The Better Business Bureau has a warning about online scams and just how prevalent fake listings have become.

The BBB says millions of people have fallen for fraudulent listings on services including Airbnb, HomeAway.com, on craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. As many as 43 per cent of users have encountered fake listings, and over five million have lost $500 or more after showing up and finding they have no place to stay – the property was never actually for rent.

The most common scam, according to the BBB, is fraudsters simply copying the photo and description of a real property, posting it online with their own contact information and trying to get a deposit and first month’s rent from the victim.

They may claim to be out of the country and unavailable to show the property. Once they receive the money, they just disappear.

RELATED: Airbnb to verify all 7 million properties to improve trust

“While an advertised rental that meets your needs at a great price might be tempting, it may just be a scam,” says Danielle Primrose with the Mainland B.C. BBB. “Consumers should never rush into paying upfront fees for renting property that they have never seen. Instead, take the time to verify the details of the listings.”

Airbnb tends to be the safest of the sites, as it verifies most of its properties and in future is planning to verify them all. But some scammers even try to lure potential renters off Airbnb with spoof listings.

The BBB says the most common signs of rental scams are:

• The owner claims to be out of town and you cannot see the unit in person before sending money.
• There is a ‘for sale’ sign in the yard.
• The alleged owner or property manager wants to be paid through Western Union, Money Gram or a gift card.
• The rent is well below market rate.
• The alleged owner wants to communicate with you outside of the rental platform.

The BBB says if you or someone you know has been the victim of a scam, you can report it to the BBB at bbb.org/scamtracker.