Christine Karpinski: Today's question comes from Timothy. He asks:
Q: "What do I do if I receive a suspicious inquiry? How can I tell if it's a scammer or actually a qualified renter?"
A: First off, everybody needs to keep their antennae up at all times when you're dealing with transactions over the Internet. We're dealing with people we can't see. They can't see us. We're complete, total strangers, so it's always best to keep your antennae up. While the vast majority of the inquiries that we receive are legitimate, great renters, there are some scammers that you have to beware of.
When you're looking at your inquiries, the first thing you'll want to do is be wary of extremely poor grammar. The next thing is, unfortunately, many of the scammers living in various countries around the world use email addresses from the UK. I'm not sure why, but a lot of times it will be from yahoo.co.uk. So if you get one of those emails, keep your antennae up.
The next thing you need to look out for is that scammers will often provide too much information up front about themselves or the reason for their trip. But the information is either confusing or unusual. We've seen all sorts. Something like, "I'm a prince of Nigeria." "I'm planning a trip for my godson." Sometimes they'll tell their occupation. "I'm an engineer coming to your area." And a lot of times they'll refer to themselves as "Dr. So‑and‑so."
The next thing is sometimes they'll request specific dates and then turn right around and say that their dates are flexible, which doesn't really make sense. When you're looking at an inquiry, their dates are either flexible or they're not.
One common scam is when they tell you that they're sending money for a greater amount than the charge for the rental, and you're supposed to send them the balance to another party. A lot of times they'll say things like, "Oh, my company cut a check for too much." And guess what they're going to ask you to do? They're going to say deposit that check, and then as soon as it clears within a few days, please Western Union the money or Moneygram to them. The unfortunate part about this is you'll deposit that check, and a lot of times it takes the bank weeks or sometimes even a month or so to realize that that's a forged check. It's not a real check, and you have just sent your good money via Western Union or Moneygram or whatever to them, and you're out the money. You have none of their money. So be wary of those scams.
If you receive one, make sure to send it to the webmaster of the website that it originated from. They need to know so that they can block those email addresses. And why is it that you send the email to HomeAway or VRBO, and then you'll get another one just like it? Guess what the scammers do? They will just change their email address, and then use the same old inquiry all over again.
On the Owner Community site, you can also see a collection of frequent scam inquiries.
I hope you enjoyed this episode of "Ask Christine." If you have a question we would love to hear from you.
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