Article by Susan Forson, Owner, ALAVHR.com, first published June 29, 2018
How to Spot a Scammer
Vacation rental scams are not new, but they have recently increased in our corner of the world. In July 2018, I received a frantic phone call from a traveler who arrived in Gulf Shores, suitcases in hand, and discovered that her family had been scammed out of their vacation rental. She called me because we have a very active Facebook community where we help connect travelers with vacation rental owners. I helped calm her down, and went through the scenario with her – yes, she had been scammed. It is very difficult to prosecute these scammers but I did encourage her to contact her bank and to file a police report. Fortunately, we were also able to help arrange a legitimate condo for her and her family to stay in. It breaks my heart to hear such stories – and they are becoming all too frequent.
We issue many warnings and reminders in our groups about scammers, but this phone call spurred me to action. I wanted to pull together what we have learned about scammers and make a video that you can share to educate travelers.
The bottom line is that no matter how careful you are, there is no way to prevent scammers from contacting you on Facebook or Craigslist. The best line of defense is to learn when to be suspicious and always choose a payment option that provides fraud protection. We cover all of these topics and even share real life examples from recent scams in our video.
Please take a few moments to learn how to spot a scammer and how to protect yourself – and please share with your friends and family. The examples used in this video were reported to the Scammer Busters group. Travelers may also contact us to ask whether someone has been reported or if you are not sure you are being scammed.
Facebook Profile Tips
- Newly created accounts
- Older accounts with very few photos or activities
- Time stamps have been changed on photos
- Profile and Timeline photos were BOTH recently changed, often at the same time
- Account name does not align with URL version of account
- Friends list not visible
- Many foreign friends, particularly from Nigeria or other English speaking third world countries
- If friends list is not visible, check to see who has “liked” or commented on photos – go back a month or more
- Check which groups they belong to:
- Are there a LOT of vacation rental groups scattered geographically?
- Are they in mostly buy/sell groups?
- What types of links are they sharing? Red flags are rental links from VRBO and AirBnB but the locations are literally all over the world. Click the links – is there any consistency in who is the named owner or property manager?
- Lately Scammers select listings that are through very large property management companies so that it is impossible for you to know whether they are telling the truth.
- Claim to be a realtor – check the company they claim to work with. Many scammers use the same fake company name
- Claim to own their own property managemet company (Their Name Vacation Rentals), plus an “impressive” history of working for other vacation companies, such as AirBnB, VRBO, Vacasa, etc. Some even claim to “work” for AlaVHR!
At Alabama Vacation Home Rentals, we are dedicated to stopping scammers. We verify every owner that lists on our site and never charge booking fees or site commissions. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns before booking with one of our owners.