As websites like Homeaway go mainstream putting a spotlight on the vacation rental industry, I felt I must do an article about how to spot a possible scam enquiry in your inbox. I don’t claim to be an expert at this but having seen many many enquiries, I think I have learnt to recognize a few warning signs. So here they are:-
1. Poor grammar and spelling mistakes. Many a time, these enquiries are outsourced to offshore call centers with a very poor command of the English language. As such, be careful whenever you see grammatical or too formal English in your enquiries.
2. Group size at odds with the size of your property. This is usually because the call center executive is sending the same message to a large number of property owners without even reading your description.
3. Off season enquiries – This is a dead giveaway if the person is enquiring for months when you are closed or else when it is really off season and no one would visit your property.
4. Insistence on mobile number or phone number/ email address within the message – Quite a few times, these call centers are harvesting your data and what they might not have is your phone number or email address. As such, if they are persistent in asking for this without really having started a conversation with you, I would be worried.
5. The Airbnb scam – A photographer contacts you telling your about Airbnb and how great it is and how they will pay for free professional photographs of your property – BEWARE – This is definitely not a genuine enquiry and this is a contractor of Airbnb – a website with quite a few dubious practices. The photographs they pay for are never given to you and if given are watermarked so that you cannot use them for your own use.
6. The free listing scam – Someone will call you having taken your number off one of the websites and say that you have been “given”/”gifted”/ “found to be eligible” for a free listing. Remember NOTHING is FREE. Most such websites are a waste of time and energy. Our surveys have found that most of them deliver NOTHING after charging NOTHING. They aim to be able to charge in a while once they have at least a few listings.
7. The traveler asks to pay via a direct deposit into your account and asks for your bank details.
8. The traveler says that he would like to overpay as he needs some pocket change while he is visiting from overseas.
9. The traveler is from any of the countries usually associated with money transfer scams or 419 scams.
In closing, trust your gut. Our guts are a result of our experience over many many years and if they tell us something is fishy, we should listen to them and err on the side of caution.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this and if you have had any experiences in this area, please leave your comment below and we can all talk through those experiences.