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16355 Views 24 Replies Latest reply: Aug 12, 2013 9:47 PM by swlinphx RSS
New Member 4 posts since
Jan 24, 2012
Currently Being Moderated

Jan 24, 2012 2:19 PM

Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

 

 

After inquiring about a house on HomeAway.com, I recieved an email back from "avalonvacation@gmail.com". This person isn't the real owner of the house, as I have been in contact over phone with the real owner. his person is located in the United Kingdom and has somehow hacked the "Contact Owner" portion of the website and is intercepting emails sent to the real owner. This person requests a wire transfer of money to his bank in the UK, "Barclay Bank", and gives you a great discount to lure you in. He then sends you a fake rental agreement, falsely using the HomeAway logo on the form, and asks for your signature and gives you 72 hours to send him the money through bank wire transfer.

 

I have been in contact with HomeAway.com about this, and they know it's a breach of security on their part. Word of warning to all, if you get an email from "avalonvacation@gmail.com", DO NOT RESPOND!

 

Thanks.

  • Active Contributor 295 posts since
    Jun 9, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    Jan 24, 2012 3:15 PM (in response to pete59)
    Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

    ==> I have been in contact with HomeAway.com about this, and they know it's a breach of security on their part.<==

     

    Well now.

    Thank God, HomeAway listened to your reports (this time) and investigated and found the issue at their end. Wow!

  • Contributor 33 posts since
    Dec 6, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 1, 2012 3:48 PM (in response to pete59)
    Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

    Pete59, could you contact me on my email: victimofrentalfraud@gmail.com?

     

    There is a closed facebook group Victims of HomeAway/VRBO + gmail scam for all victims of this scam, where people share their experience and give advice. But please write me to the email first.

     

     


  • New Member 8 posts since
    Feb 20, 2012
    Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 22, 2012 1:40 PM (in response to pete59)
    Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

    We were also scammed about 2 weeks ago.

     

    This is the email address we received from a inquiry on VRBO's website

     

    It comes back as Vacation Rent. "villaeninfonline@gmail.com"

     

    They have contracts, refund policys, etc...All with VRBO brandings, copyrights,  and the Carefree Rental  Guarantee stamped all over it.......ALL BOGUS

  • Contributor 24 posts since
    Feb 24, 2012
    Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 24, 2012 3:08 PM (in response to pete59)
    Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

    Also had email from villaeninfonline@gmail.com posing as the property owner.  Dates 2/9/12 through 2/13/12.  Discovered the problem 2/21.  I have contract, payment info for wire transfer, fax number in California, and he had the balls to call me to discuss the property, posing as the  property owner.  Thought I had dotted i's and crossed t's. 

    Have been told I would not have lost my money if I had insisted on paying by credit card instead of the wire transfer on 2/13.

    HomeAway NOT accepting that it is a breach of their security, instead, hacking of the owner's email.

    At the very least, a big red notice should pop up with the very first look-see at any property on these vacation home websites, Reading:

    1.  Site can not be considered to have 100% secure transactions start to finish -- Procede with caution!

    2.  Payment options and their relative security issues.

    3.  Travel Insurance options and whether they cover loss from "hacking of owner's email".

    4.  Should have to click "Agree"  That I have read and understood these warnings.

     

    Any other ideas of items to add to the above list?

    Who reads these forums?  People who have already been scammed.

    Should get this info out to people who are visiting vacation rental sites for the first time.  Also Dateline, 20/20, 60 Minutes, etc.

  • Contributor 24 posts since
    Feb 24, 2012
    Currently Being Moderated
    Mar 2, 2012 8:57 AM (in response to pete59)
    Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

    HomeAway told me 2/22 that what happened to us (same scam as you experienced with different email address) was definitely NOT a security breach on their part.  They said the owner's email was hacked or phished.  Said that was not HomeAways fault or responsibilty.  Do you have an email from them taking responsibilty?

  • New Member 3 posts since
    May 1, 2012
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 1, 2012 11:26 AM (in response to pete59)
    Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

    The exact same thing happened to me, but HomeAway is blaming the breach on the property owner!!!  They are taking NO RESPONSIBILITY for the fact that the email address I got from THEIR site was redirected.  The property owner was livid when I spoke to him, as he should be. HomeAway is dumping their security problems in the property owner's laps!! Matthew in "Trust & Security" told me it is the owner's responsibility to make restitution!! Unbelievable!  My advise is: don't use HomeAway or VRBO!!!

  • New Member 1 posts since
    Jun 19, 2012
    Currently Being Moderated
    Jun 19, 2012 11:26 AM (in response to pete59)
    Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

    Yesterday I learned of the same thing, we were scammed on a house rental in the Dordogne/France. It sounds just like your scenario Pete59. However this e-mail account was : Social Trade Villa <luxvillarent@gmail.com>

    Be aware! Do not rent from this person. We still don't have a clue what's going on, even the owner will not respond.

  • New Member 1 posts since
    Jun 26, 2012
    Currently Being Moderated
    Jun 26, 2012 1:59 PM (in response to pete59)
    Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

    We were just victims of the same fraud last weekend. We rented a villa near Nice, France from a guy called Johnatan, email address was villasunrent@gmail.com . We sent funds via wire transfer to the same Bank mentioned above: Lloyds TSB in Middlesex but name on the account was Ananda Mahesh. A day before we were supposed to go, he sent an email saying the house had burned down and he would reimburse the full amount. Nothing has been received to date and we found out that the house did not burn down.

    • swlinphx Senior Contributor 2,194 posts since
      Aug 30, 2011
      Currently Being Moderated
      Jun 27, 2012 11:13 PM (in response to ygalla361)
      Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

      This is the first time I happened upon this thread.  In order to gauge just how serious or likely this is, I would like to know two things:

       

      1) Where did you all find these "HomeAway/VRBO" listings with the fake e-mail and phone number.  Was it on the legitimate HomeAway site or a spoof site made to look like HomeAway, or a HomeAway listing copied to Craigslist or somewhere else?

       

      If it was the legitimate site, then I guess the actual property owner having their e-mail account hi-jacked is the real issue.

       

      2) Do all the above incidents of fraud involve wiring money?  If so that is a huge red flag that most people know not to do period, for vacaton rentals or any transaction, and either today or before the advent of the Internet.  If they all were people who wired money then I am not too worried.

       

      Let me know, thanks.

    • New Member 1 posts since
      Jul 2, 2012
      Currently Being Moderated
      Jul 2, 2012 8:11 AM (in response to ygalla361)
      Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

      I also rented a house from villasunrent@gmail.com but under the name Jay Bockhaus for a house in East Marion, NY. He sounded legit and professional over email so I ended up wiring the money to an account under name Giovani Torzi in London with his wire instructions. HomeAway was unable to verify the owner's name even when I called them so I ended up sending money anyway. And a week later, HomeAway sent me an email to alert me that the real owner's email was compromised for this property and I will NOT be covered under their insurance policy even though the criminal used HomeAway's Carefree Safe Guarantee contract. How is this possible that they allow one criminal, with the same email address, to repeatedly committ such crimes!?!? How can HomeAway say they will not be responsible in this especially since I called HomeAway prior to wiring money to veirfy the owner's (false) name and they would NOT tell me. This could've been avoided with a little more attention and care.

      • swlinphx Senior Contributor 2,194 posts since
        Aug 30, 2011
        Currently Being Moderated
        Jul 2, 2012 10:08 AM (in response to sxxiong)
        Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

        Never wire money to anyone you don't personally know and trust....  EVER.   Consider a request for you to wire money as an automatic confession of a scam.

        • Contributor 24 posts since
          Feb 24, 2012
          Currently Being Moderated
          Jul 2, 2012 2:37 PM (in response to swlinphx)
          Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

          We have been renting houses for a family reunion every year for the past 8 years.  Several times we have wired money with no issues.  This year while I was looking for the 2012 booking, I was often told by vacation home owners that credit cards could not be used as too many are stolen and payment withdrawn, often after the renters have had their week or weekend and are gone.  These people were not scammers, and were in fact owners we had rented from before with no problems.

           

          Date: Mon, 2 Jul 2012 10:08:39 -0500

          From: community@homeaway.com

          To: kat_e_b@msn.com

          Subject: Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT! - Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

                                                                                          Seek Advice. Get Answers. Optimize your Vacation Rental Business.

                                                                                          Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

           

           

              created by swlinphx in Scams - View the full discussion

           

           

           

          Never wire money to anyone you don't personally know and trust....  EVER.   Consider a request for you to wire money as an automatic confession of a scam.

           

           

               Reply to this message by replying to this email -or- go to the message on Community

               Start a new discussion in Scams by email or at Community

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          • swlinphx Senior Contributor 2,194 posts since
            Aug 30, 2011
            Currently Being Moderated
            Jul 2, 2012 6:49 PM (in response to keb)
            Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

            Hi keb,

             

            In all the years we've been doing business and with everyone we've heard from in this forum this is the first time we've heard of an owner or manager requiring they be paid by wiring money.  Whether they are legit or not, this is highly suspect, especially in this day and age of Internet fraud and I would avoid anyone who only accepts wired money.  Just because you may not have been the victim of fraud the first few times doesn't mean you're not still leaving yourself wide open to scams and theft.

             

            If they tell you they won't take credit cards because they are afraid of charge backs (an excuse that is rarely given and somewhat unusual), just know it is far less risky for them to take credit cards than for you to wire money.  Nowadays that is a huge red flag when it comes to transactions over the Internet or with people you do not know.  Once you know them and that they're legit that is fine if you want to, but still not necessary.

             

            If it is a matter of the owner not feeling good about the possibility of credit card charge backs or stolen credit cards as you stated above, they can simply take a check, as long as their is still a couple weeks before check-in to ensure that it clears.  If not, they can take a money order or cashier's check, or even take a credit card but require that you pay cash on arrival to them once you check in and know all is legit.  They then can refund your credit card payment.  Either way there are many safe alternatives to wiring money.  Any decent business would not ask you to do this, especially knowing the extreme dangers associated with wire transfers and all the reported fraud.

             

             

             

            NOTE:  If you are responding to these posts from your outside e-mail address and not here directly on the forum, please be sure to delete all the extraneous text from your e-mail response before sending.

  • kjm New Member 12 posts since
    Sep 6, 2012
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 22, 2013 4:53 PM (in response to pete59)
    Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

    I can now report nine times since Nov 2012 that my property description has been stolen from HomeAway and put onto Craigslist for the purposes of scamming.

     

    What is HA doing to help us invesigate and counter this problem.? Nothing as far as I can see. I have reported the scams to HA but have had zero interest in HA actually doing anything

    • swlinphx Senior Contributor 2,194 posts since
      Aug 30, 2011
      Currently Being Moderated
      May 23, 2013 3:55 AM (in response to kjm)
      Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

      That sucks, but to be honest what can anyone do?  Anyone can copy anything from the Internet (text, photos, etc.) and paste as their own on Craigslist or anywhere.  The only ones who will be scammed are the ones who respond via Craigslist.   Not sure if you advertise there but if you don't I wouldn't worry.  The scammer who corresponds with them will be using their own e-mail address and phone number, so it will not be a reflection on you or your valid listing, assuming there's no link to your HomeAway listing.  And if there was, then they should be able to see a different phone number.

       

      Not the best answer, but some things are just inevitable and unpreventable when it comes to the Internet.

    • beth HomeAway Employee 1,011 posts since
      Jan 20, 2012
      Currently Being Moderated
      May 23, 2013 10:42 AM (in response to kjm)
      Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

      Hi kjm,

       

      There was a discussion during the Executive Q&A at the HomeAway Summit pertaining to scammers illegally advertising your property on Craigslist. If you have been impacted by this, please send your story directly to summit-craigslist@homeaway.com. Based on your collective feedback, we will reach out directly to Craigslist to try to greatly improve the situation.

       

      Thanks,

      Beth

      Community Manager & Summit Coordinator

      • robert.larick New Member 23 posts since
        Mar 25, 2013
        Currently Being Moderated
        May 30, 2013 8:13 AM (in response to beth)
        Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

        but to be honest what can anyone do?

        beth wrote:

         

        There was a discussion during the Executive Q&A at the HomeAway Summit pertaining to scammers illegally advertising your property on Craigslist. If you have been impacted by this, please send your story directly to summit-craigslist@homeaway.com. Based on your collective feedback, we will reach out directly to Craigslist to try to greatly improve the situation.

         

        I have a problem with this solicitation. You are asking for "stories"?  to then be able to "reach out directly to Craigslist"

         

        I ve always thought of Craigs LIst as one of those sites that are free that leaves a person wondering where do they get the money to run such a huge website?  I know that 91% of Homeaway's income was from owners paying to have information hosted on their website.

         

        Does homeaway really think that Craigs list is going to do do anything when they don't do much to police advertisements for sexual services? 

         

        Am I wrong here?

         

        " Based on your Collective feedback"

         

        Seriously?  You need stories? Aren't there enough posted here in these forums?  Sarcastically . Oh I get it.  When no one actually sends a story, Homeaway can then say " see this isn't a problem, no one sent a story"


         

        "scammers illegally advertising your property" 

         

        Combine this with a section in the Terms and Conditions:

         

        Copy, reproduce, upload, post, display, republish, distribute, or transmit any part of the content in any form whatsoever; Reproduce any portion of the Site on your website or otherwise,

         

        Now please explain to me why Homeaway is not actively protecting the integrity of their own website by going after those that illegally copy information to use for fraudulent purposes.

         

        Futhermore then explain comparitively, why Homeaway coaches their customers that they should look for those that illegally copy information from their website versus the above.

         

        I feel stronly that there is a certain implied expectation that Homeaway's paying clients receive when signing up stated in the terms and conditions.  

         

        In other words, why bother to mention anything about copying, posting, any part of the content when Homeaway doesn't do anything with something so obviously blatant like a fraudulent Craigs Listing.

         

        I was just notified again ( 3rd time in 6 weeks) last night by an inquirer of my home on Craigs List.  This has happened over 6 times that I am aware of in the last 3 years.    I am not going to pursue nor contact for fear of retaliation to me or my property. 

         

        Given the recent (I call it extorion) to use Homeaways payment systems. *it wouldn't be extortion if I could use buttons and icons from other payment services)  It's about time homeway grow up and take responsibility to do the "right" things.

         

        Finally.   Homeaway is easy to follow comparitively to other websites in general.  Their growth is more than noteworthy. It is a great business model that might be applied and capitalized on other things that happen during an eoonomic downturn.  . 

         

         


      • rclark New Member 3 posts since
        Jun 7, 2013
        Currently Being Moderated
        Jun 7, 2013 6:55 PM (in response to beth)
        Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

        Great to hear you're taking these scams seriously, Beth. I can see a lot of owners having their reputations harmed by these sorts of things... Really a shame.

  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 23, 2013 9:35 AM (in response to pete59)
    Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

    I thought that  one of the purposes of HA sites not allowing us to post watermarked photos when they changed their policy and stopped watermarking the VRBO photos was to have complete copyrights to our photos on their sites that would permit them to get their lawyers to get sites and or ads that copyied photos and text from any HA site, removed from the internet.  HA had their entire website posted on bidvacationrental.com last year which is still up but missing photos of our VR's but still showing bidvacationrental.com phone numbers with the listings.

  • sterly New Member 4 posts since
    May 23, 2012
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 24, 2013 11:01 PM (in response to pete59)
    Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

    HA and Craigslist may want to learn from eBay who have recently changed their requirements for listing vacation properties on their site.  Owners are asked to send proof of ownership (bills with name and address and id etc) which is then verified by eBay. The process takes a few days but I have no problem waiting a few days to be verified if this protects me and other VR owners too.

  • mrpatchy New Member 3 posts since
    Aug 12, 2013
    Currently Being Moderated
    Aug 12, 2013 3:06 AM (in response to pete59)
    Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

    Same happened to me, the emails came from escapevacationhomerentals@gmail.com. Sent money via wire transfer. I also had a strange email chat with the guy who manages this fraud. Amazing.

     

    Ciao

    Alessandro

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