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9385 Views 42 Replies Latest reply: Jan 18, 2014 3:22 PM by swlinphx RSS
thale HomeAway Employee 136 posts since
Oct 27, 2010
Currently Being Moderated

Apr 27, 2012 6:45 PM

Have you ever received an inquiry that you thought might be bogus?

Has anyone received an inquiry which appears bogus to you? What were the signs that made you think it was an attempt to get your email address for a phishing attack?

  • christineb Contributor 35 posts since
    Mar 1, 2011

    I have never had a situation where I felt that people were trying to get my email address.

    I have been renting our place since 2010 and honestly I have never had an issue with email inquiries.

    But I do get people calling the phone number I have listed (which rings into voicemail because I live several time zones from my property) who are unbelievably vague about date details etc when they are making initial contact. These messages typically have background noise similar to telemarketing calls which set off my spidey senses immediately. I never call these people back but I will get this type of call as often as once a week.

    Part of my filtering process is that I just don't return calls to people who aren't specific about what dates they want etc. This is out of necessity because of the probability of "phone tag" is high as is the cost of a phone call (Skype is technically not allowed where I live).

    • anja Senior Contributor 1,560 posts since
      Aug 9, 2011

      I have had email inquiries that were too vague and left me feeling suspicious.  Were they just wanting me to answer...to get my email validated?  One email was:  "interested. send details with price."  They are always lower case...use "throw away" emails that are not traceable to any links online.

       

      In general, it is too common that inquiries, I'm referring to legitimate ones, are "incomplete"....meaning missing relevant information that would give me a sense of trust for the inquirer.....like a full name, a working phone #, a real email address from the inquirer.  This could be easily fixed if HA/VRBO would "mandate" that all fields in the inquiry form be completed --- or the form will not *send*.

       

      I'd like to know who is contacting me....before I send them all my details.  I'd like to "screen" before I reveal my property details to anyone.  It's not a pefect world...I've successfully "screened" out people I didn't think were a "fit" for my place...I didn't want them here for various reasons...but it's getting harder to do.

       

      The inquiry process is not a perfect system.  It needs improvement.  HA/VRBO can easily remedy this.

       

      On phone calls....    I had gotten one phone call from someone, whom I believed, was just trying to get my email address....which I did not give.  It was a person who claimed that he had been trying to "email me"...but  couldn't get through....claimed something wrong with the address he had.   Said that he was asking for information for his  "mother" ...who is not email savvy ...just helping her....so could I confirm my email address, over the phone.   I did not....I will not respond to such a request!   He asked WHY...rather boldly...no etiquette.   I hung up.  That's how it happened.  I only had this type of call one time.

       

      There is a market for valid email addresses -- which are resold to other scammers...and used for phishing schemes.   But, I have to tell you that VRBO, where I list, is giving out our email addresses enclosed with the "reply to inquirer".   Please...can you guys cease doing that, for us owners?

       

      We're trying to stay "safe" in an unsafe world while we handle strangers who want access to our homes.    If I respond from my Outlook, then I'm giving them my email in the reply . But, for inquiries via VRBO,  from where I get steady inquiries although not as many as in the past,  I'd like to use the  REPLY feature without offering them my email address...but I realized recently that you guys are 'exposing' it.

       

      The "bulk" inquiry feature is sending inquiries regardless of calendar marked "booked"....and often I'm responding "regrets"...and I'd like to keep my email "private" in such a response.  If I'm interested in the booking, I'd respond giving them my email...let me decide.

      I recently had a situation with a local-based resident on my island that was  trying to "book" my cottage {even though my calendar was "full"}...and I do not want him and his drunken girlfriend to know where I am.  I used the *REPLY* feature thinking that "the system" protected  my email address,  and then realized that my email was exposed by you guys in the response form.     Not good.    I became nervous that he will find my exact street address by searching for my email address... and then "appear" at my door.   He did exactly that to an owner that I know here...who told me was robbed by that couple when they stayed in his rental....{credit card fraud}.

       

      Thank you for asking feedback and comment from users here.  It's really important that we help you to shape a better, safer system to do business in. The best way to do that is to inform  you at HA what is happening on the owner's end.  Please help us to feel less vulnerable.

    • optimystic2 New Member 7 posts since
      Nov 23, 2013

      Agreed, I'm cautious about phone contact also.  However, one of the ways I avoid issues is contacting the renter by phone.  Our area is fun for young adults and I require a min 24 primary renter.  If they use "Dude" or other "youth-biased" vernacular [haha, like writing a note in chat language; "do u hav cabin 4 fri 2 sun?"] I call them if it gets to the point that they want to move forward.  I've probably reduced party damage by at least 3 events

  • New Member 3 posts since
    Mar 23, 2012

    Well Chris, looks like you'll have practice up, here is a good start:

     

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukrainian_language

     

    ;-)

     

    I am in Austin, Texas.... where is she going now?

  • New Member 1 posts since
    Jan 2, 2013

    If you have any experience with Craig's List - these are pretty simple to spot. Incorrect  grammar & spelling, all lower case, no contact phone number. "My Wife's Employer will be sending you a certified check ******** for more than you are charging so please forward us the overage right away".

     

    Common sense tells you to simply receive payment up front well in advance, make certain it CLEARS and never give out the property address or any of your personal information.

     

    I'm pleased to say that we have had very few of these on VRBO/HOME AWAY and most guests are legit.

  • New Member 2 posts since
    Dec 30, 2012

    I have been getting some phishing emails over the past few days.  There are two flavors:

     

    1. I get an email to my homeaway email account that has a subject like "Re: rental" or "Re: Contract" and it has a document attached.  If you click on the doc, it brings you to the Google Docs login page.

     

    2. I get an email to my homeaway email account that looks like a valid Homeaway inquiry EXCEPT that it has a different property ID than mine.  I don't reply to inquiries by clicking the REPLY button on the email - I always go to the Homeaway site and do it from there.  When I went to my Homeaway Inquiry page, this inquiry doesn't exist.

     

    I urge owners to be careful when opening or responding to inquiries - looks like there is a lot of phishing going on!

  • kiawahcottage Community All-Star 375 posts since
    Jan 1, 2011

    Hi,

     

    I have started to use my own 2 e-mail system.  The first e-mail address is for incoming inquiries only from HA /  VRBO.  I never respond from that address.   It is also one of my main general e-mail addresses, the important point is never to respond to an inquiry from it.

     

    The second e-mail is for responding and communicating with inquirers and renters.  If a phisher sends me an inquiry through the HA system he gets the wrong address to send the phishing attack.  If I get a HA inquiry to the second e-mail it's a fake!  If somehow the second e-mail should get phished, they can't intercept my inquiries before I see them. 

     

    Ironically the actual weak spot is when I (occasionally) respond through RM.  Then they get my HA inquiry-only e-mail address.

     

    Just got this phishing attack recently.  ***REDACTED E-MAIL MESSAGE FROM A CRIMINAL***  Not my property # and all the live links went who knows where.  Oh and 14 people in a 3 bedroom?  Maybe they are a very close knit family?  Other than that it does look very good.  But since HA does not send my inquiries to that address I don't have to give it a second thought.  Sorry Perry, Nevaeh gonna happen!

     

    Paul

     

    *** MESSAGE WAS EDITED BY A COMMUNITY MODERATOR. PLEASE NOTE THAT IT'S AGAINST COMMUNITY GUIDELINES TO POST PERSONAL INFORMATION (LAST NAME, PHONE NUMBER, STREET ADDRESS) OF ANOTHER PERSON (EVEN POTENTIAL SCAMMERS).

     

    ****It was a phony scammer's name but yes, sorry, I know we must protect the scammer's privacy... ( check my post, you missed one)  Paul

    • swlinphx Senior Contributor 2,194 posts since
      Aug 30, 2011

      What happens when your e-mail account gets hacked (as I have had done before).  If they get your password or access somehow to the e-mail address you initially receive inquiries from they can respond and forward all that mail so you never knew you got the inquiries.  Then they can correspond with the inquirer as if they were you and encourage fraudulent payment, which was the whole problem HomeAway was trying to avoid.

       

      I didn't realize my e-mails were being forwarded to a bogus account for about 5 days when I finally noticed I wasn't getting any mail from one of my accounts.  I have them all combined in list view so all my e-mail addresses appear in the same place.  Therefore, it is not always immediately apparent if one address has not received mail in a while.

  • telemarkboy New Member 9 posts since
    Oct 25, 2012

    Hi. I have been receiving more and more dubious email enquiries. I have taken on board the replies from other members.Thank you.  I have been in the Internet/Government security business for some 25 years and dealing with the Internet since before it was created back in the DARPANET days, so I have a keen interest in this subject. What is happening to us is potentially quite worrying, and needs to be sorted out, lest the bad guys win, resulting in Owners leaving the community, and Holiday Makers steering clear of the site. This would, most likely, result in the closure of the site, due to zero revenue. We Homeowners need to do our bit for security, and so does HomeAway. For my part, I have difficulty in establishing the true identities of people (Incl. genuine holiday makers) who wish to do business with me. I do the usual background checks, which has worked so far. I'm thinking of ramping up my security checks to include such things as police checks (in country), exchange of passport ID image and data and cross-check to the relevant national passport office, Skype phone call with Image verification: against the passport photo submitted, Facebook and other social media, Fixed land line telephone number, and a Residential address .... It seems to me, that a genuine holiday maker will have a number, if not most, of the following ( which, incidentally could be verified or at least asked for by HomeAway) ...... Full Name, Address, Home phone, Mobile phone, Passport, Drivers licence, Facebook page, LinkedIn page, Entry on the Electoral Register, access to Skype.I am not sure of the technical capabilities of the HA staff, and regrettably have little confidence in their ability to sort the security issues out, in a professional and business like manner, from what I have read in the Forums. I would be happy to discuss these issues with the Security Manager/Officer at HomeAway... you have my email address  and tel no. Is anyone else out there thinking of seriously ramping up their security?

    • nickname2 New Member 10 posts since
      Nov 25, 2013

      I think some owners wouldn't get any inquiries if there were no bogus inquiries! Since the new HA system, I went from fully booked through homeaway to nothing! And according to HA staff a lot of owners are concerned about the problem. I really have a doubt about these many fake inquiries. In my case 100% fake inquiries in the 4 months!

      • swlinphx Senior Contributor 2,194 posts since
        Aug 30, 2011

        Since the new HA system, I went from fully booked through homeaway to nothing!

        What "new HA system" are your referring to exactly?

        • nickname2 New Member 10 posts since
          Nov 25, 2013

          Inter alia HA payments...search placement prefers of course owners which accept HA payments as HA can earn 2 times money. Since this new HA system my search position and views went down to nothing. Depending from which country your are searching from it can even be worse. As HA and Flipkey are now sharing the worldwide market, as they bought all other competitors in other countries. Now they want to make real money! I went from fully booked to nothing since all these changes. HA confirmed this impact on my business and is very sad about this LOL. And this is just the begining... a lot of changes will come in the future which will have major impact on the busnisses of the owners. In addition, the HA payments are limited to very few countries in the world as HA only accepts a few countries. Most countires are excluded from this system and as the HA payments impact 44% on your search position...

  • optimystic2 New Member 7 posts since
    Nov 23, 2013

    I believe this is also a phishing inquiry - wants to move forward with the rental, and now asking for a lot of my personal information.  It is my correct property address, so I don't know if this is a manual attack, or mass.

     

    *** MESSAGE WAS EDITED BY A COMMUNITY MODERATOR. PLEASE NOTE THAT IT'S AGAINST COMMUNITY GUIDELINES TO POST PERSONAL INFORMATION (LAST NAME, PHONE NUMBER, STREET ADDRESS) OF ANOTHER PERSON (EVEN POTENTIAL SCAMMERS).

    • info@stayattremblant.com Active Contributor 543 posts since
      Aug 25, 2011

      Hi optimystic2,

      There's not enough information in your posting to comment.

      What leads you to believe that this is a fraud attempt?

      P.

      • optimystic2 New Member 7 posts since
        Nov 23, 2013

        I didn't trust their response to my "dates are available" email [copied below]

        When I sent a note suggesting I was concerned that their email looked suspicious, like a phishing attempt, and could they please confirm that they were real renters: they did not respond.  If they were really a renter who was interested in a week at our cabin, don't you think they would send an email back explaining that they were "real people"?  What is really weird is that my full name and phone number are already listed in the VRBO ad - and they would have had my billing address with my next email which is a rental agreement and invoice..  So it was the robotic nature of the response that also made it look more suspicious.  Opinions welcome.

         

        Thanks for the updated information. We are okay with the accommodation and cost .

        We would also like to confirm the reservation on the following information:

         

        Mrs Dasha B######

        55A V#####

        Ternopil 45491 ,Ukraine,

         

            Also , due to the unsecured use of credit card online or on the phone, I have arrange for payment inform of check

        Please do forward me the following details for payment

         

        FULL NAME

         

        BILLING ADDRESS

         

        CONTACT TELEPHONE NUMBER

         

        Hope to hear from you soon

        Best Regards

         

        Dasha B####

         

        *** MESSAGE WAS EDITED BY A COMMUNITY MODERATOR. PLEASE NOTE THAT IT'S AGAINST COMMUNITY GUIDELINES TO POST PERSONAL INFORMATION (LAST NAME, PHONE NUMBER, STREET ADDRESS) OF ANOTHER PERSON (EVEN POTENTIAL SCAMMERS).

    • optimystic2 New Member 7 posts since
      Nov 23, 2013

      Ahhh, Duly noted on the post of personal info of "potentially bogus" inquiry.  Thanks Moderator

  • telemarkboy New Member 9 posts since
    Oct 25, 2012

    Yes, I have! About 50% of my enquiries are bogus. I agree with much of what has been said in this thread.

     

    The usual signs of a bad enquiry are, in my limited experience:

     

    1. An odd name (eg. Martina de la Torres, Carlene Micah (email was legrazin-mohamed@ .......)

    2. Bad dates, which do not correspond to those indicated by me as being available

    3. Unspecified number of guests (8 adults and 2 children in 8 max appartment!)

    4. A phone mumber that does not work

    5. An odd email address (gaellegaelle@.....

     

    So, before I phone them, I look for them on social media, google, etc for evidence of their existance. If not found I call them on the number they have given to me. If it is a bad number or no reply ( after several attempts) I scrub the enquiry. If I get to speak to someone we discuss their requirements. I ask them for their HOME TELEPHONE number, if the are using a mobile. With this, I ask them for their HOME ADDRESS and offer to give them MINE, and explain that we both need to be sure who we are dealing with , for security reasons. For me the HOME ADDRESS is important because this is where I might sent the CONTRACT to ( if not exchanged by email), and where I would send the keys to. Moreover, if a potential rentor does not have a fixed abode and telephone, I'm not sure they could afford my place, anyway. If, I am still uncomfortable I might ask for an exchange of Passport IDs and then a SKYPE call during which we each hold up our passports and talk with our cameras on. Thus, both parties will be assured as to whom they are talking to, and where they live, if it ever came to litigation. I am confident that a scammer would not wish to Skype me on video with his passort held up to the camera, too. Once both parties are happy, there is no problem with doing electronic bank transfers etc.

     

    I occurs to me that HomeAway might possibly be able to provide some form of screening. Could not enquirers be asked to provide a land line telephone number, Home address, and or ID Card details to home away.Homeaway could then provide three flags on the ENQUIRY sent to the HOMEOWNER, indicating which items had been provided by the enquirer. The home owner could then decide as to whether or not to accept the enquiry with or without 'ticks' in the respective boxes. ie you could still receive enquiries from people who do not wish to be properly identified, but, armed iwith this knowledge, you would be alerted to possible danger.

     

    regards to you all. R

  • turniptruck New Member 2 posts since
    Jan 18, 2014

    We have been part of the VRBO community for five years.  We did not have a problem with bogus inquiries until HomeAway started advertising us in the forgein market.  I tried to opt out of Homeaway but they said I could not.  This year I registered with JUST VRBO.  I am hoping that helps.  I like renting to Americans only.  We have had wonderful renters from around the world but the majority of inquiries from out of the country are bogus.

     

    Spotting those fakers isn't tough.  True vacationers are forth coming with their info and are excited to work with us.

     

    Last year we  had to shut down our site for a week because a phisher was rerouting our guests to their e-mail and then hiking their prices and trying to steal from our potential guests.  Homeaway was not very easy to work with to put a stop to this.  I love VRBO but only tolerate Homeaway. 

     

    Fortunately we are building an excellent client base and maybe someday won't have to deal with Homeaway.

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