Vacation Rental Scams to Be Aware Of


There’s ever-increasing interest in vacation rentals and with that interest, unfortunately, comes bad actors. There are lots of ways that unsuspecting hosts can get scammed. In this article we will briefly cover a few frequently used scams that have successfully tricked hosts.

“Let’s Communicate and Pay Off the Platform”

Vacation Rental platforms can charge what can sometimes feel like hefty fees, and it can be tempting to respond to a request from a guest to communicate and pay off the platform. This is a bad idea for two reasons:

  • If the rental takes place off the platform, you won’t be eligible for any of the standard insurance programs that the platform offers.
  • If you do this frequently enough, you may get kicked off the platform, as STR websites don’t like their hosts to do this.

Keep in mind that if you’ve got your own vacation rental website, you can capture leads and process payments that way, without paying any fees to platforms. But if a potential guest from an STR platform pushes for communicating and paying somewhere else, beware.

“Let’s Split the Money”

This scheme uses the “company has authorized X per day for accommodations, so why don’t you charge me that and then we can split it?” The “X” the potential guest offers is often much more than the nightly rate, making for a tempting possibility to a host looking to maximize profits.

Apart from the unethical nature of the transaction (defrauding an employer), there’s often no “company” at all, and by the time the fraud gets revealed to the platform via an investigation, the host is out the money they sent to the scammer and if the correspondence is investigated as well, they may be kicked off the platform. This is a situation in which sometimes the host is just as much a scammer as the potential guest!

“Let Me Tell You My Life Story”

If a guest feels the need to give you an elaborate tale about who they are and why they are coming to your city, a yellow or red light should go off in your brain. Most guests want to give a minimum of information beyond the dates of their stay and the times of their arrival and departure.

“Let Me Surprise My Friend”

Buying a room for a few days for a friend or family member sounds like a sweet gift. And it may be! But many scammers use this technique to host parties or to get people lodging who would not ordinarily be able to get it themselves, either because they don’t have an account (because they’ve been banned or don’t have the identity documents and payment methods to have one) or because they can’t give a believable story to a potential host.

In fact, many hosts understandably will decline a reservation request that is framed this way. After all, the ratings and reviews hosts see are for potential guests, and if the booking is for someone not on the platform, the checks and balances that the rating and review system offers is off the table.

“Give Me My Money Back or I’ll Write a Bad Review”

Some guests make complaints about things at the end of their stay, never having given the host an opportunity to fix issues or to make things right, and to top it off, they demand a refund as a bribe to stop them from writing a bad review.

This is one of the easiest scams to deal with because the documentation will be right in the messages for the platform to see if an investigation is triggered.

This sort of behavior should also strike the hosts as blackmail, the type of scam that’s not so hard to spot. This isn’t to say that there isn’t sometimes grounds for a guest to get some kind of refund, say if the power or Internet goes out for some period of time, but most hosts have the sense to offer a refund when it’s reasonable. They should always refuse what is clearly a scam from someone who simply doesn’t want to pay for a stay.

This content originally appeared in our twice-monthly Guest Book Newsletter.

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