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12430 Views 50 Replies Latest reply: May 24, 2012 6:00 PM by thale RSS
mlbmaine Active Contributor 893 posts since
Mar 2, 2012
Currently Being Moderated

May 8, 2012 1:26 PM

VRBO Security Warning on Listing

VRBO has posted a window with a security warning on my listing that states: "Prior to paying a reservation deposit, always verify payment instructions by calling the number on this listing. Learn more."  I appreciate that potential renters should be alerted to the potential for scams.  What I do not understand is why this warning only appears on my listing.  I have never seen it on any of the other listings in my area.  My concern is that as the warning only appears on my listing, potential renters may be scared that there is something suspicious about my property.  It seems to me that VRBO should either include this warning window on all of its listings or on none of them.  I sent an e-mail to VRBO inquiring about this, but I haven't received a response yet.  Do any other owners have this warning posted on their listing?  Does anyone know how VRBO determines what listings to post the warning on?

  • mauioceanview Contributor 250 posts since
    Jul 22, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 8, 2012 2:31 PM (in response to mlbmaine)
    Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

    I have seen it on a number of listings also, mine included.

    • msdebj Senior Contributor 1,350 posts since
      May 25, 2011
      Currently Being Moderated
      May 8, 2012 2:53 PM (in response to mauioceanview)
      Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

      HA/VRBO employees , please chime in here. Good topic, need clarification.

       

      But I'm thinking "Don't panic", just yet. I think this is something HA/VRBO added over the past weekend when they did their big system upgrade.

       

      I'm hoping this shows up on ALL listings, and not just those of us who choose not to use the Reservation Managment tool. If it's not applied to ALL, then we may have a problem.

      Debj

  • mauioceanview Contributor 250 posts since
    Jul 22, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 8, 2012 2:56 PM (in response to mlbmaine)
    Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

    I use the Reservation Management system and the 'warning' shows up on each of my four listings. I personally don't mind it - but yes, it should be on ALL listings. I did first notice it a week or two ago.

  • travis HomeAway Employee 325 posts since
    May 2, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 8, 2012 5:11 PM (in response to mlbmaine)
    Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

    Hi mlbmaine,

    This pop-up message was recently added to the HomeAway inquiry box to remind travelers that they should speak with the actual owner or property manager personally before sending any money (to avoid incidents related to fraud or phishing). This message appears only after an inquiry has been sent to a property.

    If you've recently sent yourself a test inquiry, you'll see this message on your listing.

    Please let me know if you have any further questions.

     

    Travis

    • msdebj Senior Contributor 1,350 posts since
      May 25, 2011
      Currently Being Moderated
      May 8, 2012 9:08 PM (in response to travis)
      Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

      Travis, Sorry, but you are wrong. The following pops up when I just point to my lisiting. It has a Security type badge before the message I wasn''t able to copy and past;

       

      Prior to paying a reservation deposit, always verify payment instructions by calling the number on this listing. Learn more

      debj

      • carol Senior Contributor 2,136 posts since
        Dec 10, 2010
        Currently Being Moderated
        May 8, 2012 10:35 PM (in response to msdebj)
        Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

        I don't see anything like this on my house or other homes in my area.   Perhaps it is because I block popups with my browser? 

      • anja Senior Contributor 1,555 posts since
        Aug 9, 2011
        Currently Being Moderated
        May 8, 2012 10:37 PM (in response to msdebj)
        Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

        What Travis described is exactly what happened when I sent myself a test inquiry today.  I filed in the "inquiry field" and a nano second after clicking on 'send'...a pop up appeared with a security message --- not short --- it's a mouthfull about paying the safest way {via Reservation Manager}, phoning the owner before paying, and paying with a credit card for the safest mode.

         

        But, when I pointed to my listing, no security badge appeared.    So, I think the system is a bit quirky, yet.    Aloha.

        • thaxterlane Active Contributor 779 posts since
          Jul 27, 2011
          Currently Being Moderated
          May 9, 2012 8:26 AM (in response to anja)
          Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

          "it's a mouthfull about paying the safest way {via Reservation Manager}, phoning the owner before paying, and paying with a credit card for the safest mode."

           

          Yikes.

           

          I accept personal checks and bank checks ONLY.    I don't need nor want to use reservation manager nor do I accept credit cards.

           

          I especially don't want my guests to receive instructions suggesting my payment method is problematic.

           

          This could present a challenge for those of us that do not use the fee for service methods offered by Homeaway/VRBO.

           

          Off to check the language potential guests will view, and I'm hoping it's not going to have a negative effect on my chosen payment method.  

        • anja Senior Contributor 1,555 posts since
          Aug 9, 2011
          Currently Being Moderated
          May 9, 2012 1:03 PM (in response to anja)
          Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

          This is what the "pop up" message contained - word for word:

           

          VRBO Rental Inquiry Confirmation

          Dear Frances Testing (my phoney name) :

           

          Please DO NOT "reply" to this message - this message is being sent by the VRBO.COM autoresponder and no live person will see your reply.

           

          You have many options when searching for a place to stay on your next vacation and we thank you for choosing VRBO. We’ve forwarded your recent vacation rental inquiry/inquiries to the property owner(s) or manager(s) and included a copy for your records below.

           

          What to Expect Next  Confirm reservation details

          We encourage our owners and property managers to respond to inquiries within 24 - 48 hours. If you do not receive a response, we recommend calling the owner or property manager if there is a phone number displayed on the listing. Be sure to confirm property availability, rates, payment details and any other questions specific to your reservation.

           

          Review and accept the rental agreement

          The owner or property manager will likely require you to sign a rental agreement, which should include the check-in/check-out dates, rental amount, payment schedule, and cancellation/refund policies. To secure your stay dates, a reservation deposit is usually required (see safe payment guidelines below).

           

          Make reservation payment

           

          Here are the most common payment methods in our marketplace:  Pay through ReservationManager(TM) from VRBO  Accepts credit cards and eCheck.  This is the most secure way to pay, and your payment is guaranteed against internet fraud up to $10,000.

           

          Pay by credit card, check, PayPal or bank transfer  Before sending money with one of these methods, call the telephone number published on the property listing to confirm your reservation and payment details.  If the listing does not have a phone number, please contact us for assistance.

           

          Credit cards offer charge-back protection should there be any issues with your reservation.

           

          Your payment is guaranteed up to $1,000 if you follow the recommendations listed above.    View more best practices in the Security Center

           

          ----------------------

          Best Practices for Secure Rental Payments

          VRBO is proud to operate one of the most trusted online vacation rental marketplaces in the industry, but you should always take extra steps to make sure your payment is secure.

           

          Here are some things you can do to protect your payments:

          Get vacation rental protection. You may enhance your coverage by purchasing VRBO's Carefree Rental Guarantee, which protects against foreclosure and bankruptcy, double-bookings, wrongfully withheld security deposits, and property misrepresentation up to $10,000.

           

          Learn more  Never pay by cash or instant money transfer services such as Western Union or MoneyGram. These payment methods are preferred by criminals and using them will void any guarantees from VRBO including the Carefree Rental Guarantee.

          • travis HomeAway Employee 325 posts since
            May 2, 2011
            Currently Being Moderated
            May 9, 2012 1:32 PM (in response to anja)
            Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

            Hi anja,

            This looks like the inquiry confirmation email that a traveler receives after inquiring on a property, not a pop up message that appears on the site. I provided screenshots of these two messages.

            Travis

            • anja Senior Contributor 1,555 posts since
              Aug 9, 2011
              Currently Being Moderated
              May 9, 2012 3:09 PM (in response to travis)
              Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

              Yes, Travis.  As I stated in my first post, when I sent myself a "test inquiry", as suggested by you, that is the message that came in a nano second...it appeared on the site...not as a separate email to me. At least, that is how I recall it it occurring....but even if it's a separate email to the inquirer after they made the inquiry it has the same effect.  Anyway,  I thought we were talking about the same thing. Note:   It did not disturb me that there was a warning about rental scams  {please do not misunderstand}.  I think it's a good thing that HA/VRBO is warning about scams, but there will be a problem with the wording because the warnings, as they are worded, are fostering "mistrust" ...almost waving "red flags" for the listings where owners are not using the Reservation Manager {is that the intent of HA? It is clearly a promotional message for Reservation Manager}....and for owners who only accept checks....and those who do accept, without any problems,  bank-to-bank transfers {a lot of my  European guests *request* this payment method of me...and I oblige them.  I offer 4 ways for people to pay me:  3 of them, HA/VRBO has now labeled as not as secure as "Reservation Manager" and 'credit cards'.     It is clear why HA is offering this advice to travellers.  I, too, in my communications try to enlighten my inquirers and assure them of my legitimacy.  But, I will not stop taking payments the way I've done so for years...with no problems....my own system works great.  I don't need a third party hinting that my methods may not be "secure".  HA/VRBO is intruding on our business practices.  This is not helpful to the owners.  Let us deal with our customers...we've done so for years without all the 'advice' from a third-party who claims to have no involvement in the  "transactions".   You do....you are influencing everything now, from how we get an inquiry... to how prospects contact us....to how OUR customers pay us.   Not everyone can "answer the phone"....many owners hold a full time job where they can not answer the phone calls for their "rental prospects".   That should not invoke a 'red flag' in the minds of prospects.  I work from home and even I can not sit by my phone all day waiting.   This is a debatable topic.   I am happy to warn travellers not to fall for scams. But, there is a correct way to do this so we can foster the trust we need between strangers doing business together.

              That message should not even hint that some of the owners advertising on HA sites may not be operating in a "secure" manner.

      • travis HomeAway Employee 325 posts since
        May 2, 2011
        Currently Being Moderated
        May 9, 2012 10:00 AM (in response to msdebj)
        Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

        Hi msdebj,

        When a traveler sends an inquiry, they will get a confirmation page that shows this message:

        securemsg1.png

        When that traveler revisits the listing they inquired on, they will see this pop up message:

        securemsg2.png

        If you're seeing this message on your listing, you must have recently sent yourself a test inquiry.

         

        Travis

        • anja Senior Contributor 1,555 posts since
          Aug 9, 2011
          Currently Being Moderated
          May 9, 2012 10:32 PM (in response to travis)
          Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

          Travis, I just had a chance to "revisit" my listing today, after I send a test to myself,  and that pop up {about verifying payment instructions} you referred to did appear.   It hadn't done so earlier ....quirky....but it just did.

    • anja Senior Contributor 1,555 posts since
      Aug 9, 2011
      Currently Being Moderated
      May 9, 2012 1:17 PM (in response to mlbmaine)
      Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

      Hi mlbmaine & thaxterlane:   I just added the full text of the new "pop up" message on VRBO for your to examine to read what they are advising travellers.  [scroll above to find it]

      • msdebj Senior Contributor 1,350 posts since
        May 25, 2011
        Currently Being Moderated
        May 9, 2012 1:34 PM (in response to anja)
        Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

        Amazing.....  I could certainly do without the clause stating:

         

        "Credit cards offer charge-back protection should there be any issues with your reservation."

         

        VERY poorlly worded, and could be taken as HA/VRBO legal advice to a traveler.  I mean, really? "Issues with your reservation" is SO broad it could mean anything.

        Debj

        • thaxterlane Active Contributor 779 posts since
          Jul 27, 2011
          Currently Being Moderated
          May 9, 2012 1:47 PM (in response to msdebj)
          Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

          Agreed msdebj,

           

          The wording seems to inject uncertainty into the rental transaction and could raise questions for the potential renter.

           

          I would be alarmed as a renter, worried about "issues with my reservation", and as an owner I'm appalled that renters are being "forewarned" of "issues".  (Anja, I'm taking on your quote style of writing, it seems . . . .  and, thank you for posting the text above).

           

          Whar is included in the phrase "issues with your reservation" ?  Is this a different category of "issues" than those that might arise durinng a stay? 

           

          Yikes (again).

           

          This  is an extremely thinly veiled message to the renter  to use a method that allows them to recoup their payment, just in case there are any undefined "issues". 

           

          This may (and in my opinion, is likely) to cultivate a lack of trust between renter and owner.

          • anja Senior Contributor 1,555 posts since
            Aug 9, 2011
            Currently Being Moderated
            May 9, 2012 10:02 PM (in response to thaxterlane)
            Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

            I do not believe, for a second, that HA is trying to harm owners --- but I do think that they are trying to get owners to use the Reservation Manager by creating a demand for it, by travellers.  I do not outright disagree with them on the issue of 'warning about scams'. It's been stated numerous times on the Forum that HA/VRBO should do something....well, now they are.  It's how they do it that is "crafty" to benefit themselves and "their customers"...{travellers}.  It is my belief that HA carefully crafted the text to first and  foremost promote their Reservation Manager....because they believe it is the safest way for their customers to book...because of the fraud coverage, etc..   They have the right to promote their services to travellers....they are, afterall, HA's  "target group"...HA's "customer" {the traveller}...the CEO has stated that openly.  They are advising their customers...before their customers become our customers {when people pay us they are then our customers....but prior to payment they are prospects...not our customers, yet}.  So, in the marketing world, HA is correct to warn their customers about the whole scam situation. But,  I do think that HA is now  almost micro managing to some extent how we conduct our business...and that's something I do not agree with.

             

            I agree with you that the 'wording' could be a problem [for owners]...as it is ...I think it is bound to "inject uncertainty" in the rental transaction.    Time will tell...but it won't take that long, IMO, before an inquirer asks us if we are using the Reservation Manager...and they may not want to deal with us, if we do not.   They may not want to deal with us if we do not accept credit cards, either.  {I do, but only via PayPal, Intuit and Google Checkout}. That, in my  opinion,  is the marketing strategy that HA is using...and their goal...to create a demand for Reservation Manager.   Advising that RM is a safe way to transact for the traveller, may just create a demand  by the travellers for Reservation Manager.....by injecting "uncertainty" around owners who use different transaction methods.  This is what could happen.  {I think HA knows this...they are smart marketers.}

             

            In any case, I think we have to carefully craft communications that address the whole "scam" issue and assure our prospects that we are "legit"....to not only offset "wording" in the HA advice....but just to deal with this new reality, regardless  of what the HA folks are doing.

            • Active Contributor 295 posts since
              Jun 9, 2011
              Currently Being Moderated
              May 10, 2012 6:34 PM (in response to anja)
              Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

              ==> "...In any case, I think we have to carefully craft communications that address the whole "scam" issue and assure our prospects that we are "legit"....to not only offset "wording" in the HA advice....but just to deal with this new reality, regardless  of what the HA folks are doing."

               

              How about this:

              in the Signature part of my email where I have my name, telephone number, etc. listed, how about adding/inserting the following lines.

               

               

              This email was sent by a Verified Owner when telephone number listed here matches the number listed at Owner's website

              • anja Senior Contributor 1,555 posts since
                Aug 9, 2011
                Currently Being Moderated
                May 11, 2012 12:56 AM (in response to tfv)
                Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

                Something like that could be all that we need to state, i.e. the matching phone number, when we answer an inquiry.

                 

                I'm also keen to include a short "security" message in my property description ...or in the section for "owner profile....to counter balance what that VRBO message invokes in the  minds of people searching.  Not to challenge what they state but to "balance" it so not to scare the dickens out of people...while raising their awarness of my legitimacy.   I haven't come up with exactly what my message will be, just yet.  Could be just an instruction to look at the bottom of the listing page to see how long my place has been advertising on VRBO...2001 was the first year.  That's a lot of time to be proven "legit".   In my State, new legislation is being pushed {just passed by the lower government...and now on the desk of the Governor} for all transient vacation rentals to include the tax IDs on all online ads, personal websites, and print media.  So, perhaps I'll include a note in my VRBO page about how to find my business registration on my State's website...and on the Travel & Convention Bureau's directory website for all registered vacation rentals.

                 

                Honestly, I don't know what more we can do to prove our legitimacy for anyone.  What we, owners, need now is a "support" for us so we may have an easier time "screening" ...and proving the identities of who the heck the travellers are that send inquiries.

                 

                I'm annoyed that all the responsibility --- and concerns raised by HA-VRBO in that message ---- seems to fall on us proving we are legit....when we know *nothing* about the travellers who shoot incomplete inquiries.   Where  are the tips to the travellers on how to send an inquiry so owners can be reassured of who they are about to deal with?  Where is the "programmed" inquiry form that will not  *send* unless the traveller completely fills in all the fields:  their full names, real tel #s,  real email addresses?,  a comment area to explain who, what, where and why they want to rent our home?  Where are the security measures to safeguard us?  Like, for example:  NOT exposing our email addresses in the "response" form we send when we answser inquiries...I'm sure others will come up with more things HA can do to help the owners secure their data, their photos.

                I'm all for helping travellers feel secure to contact and do business with me.,,and I'm pleased that HA/VRBO wants to help the effort. But, c'mon....this business requires trust on both ends.  When are we going to made to feel as if we, owners, are important customers of HA/VRBO?  When will we begin to feel they have our secuity in mind, as well?    I'm not a happy camper when I have to pull teeth to find out who is contacting me via the inquiry system that does not provide the assurances I'd like...before I send my information, prior to the booking taking place.  I would like to know  who is contacting me. I do not like responding to  "JJ" who gives me a  'throw away" email....and no legit phone #  like, 555 555 5555!  Do I really want to send my full details to a total stranger if that person will  not fully identify themselves ...in the inquiry?   No.

                I recently asked for a phone number so I could call a woman {Amy} who sent an inquiry...she would NOT give me her phone #....she said, "It's private."  She said that she only gives it out when she knows that she will book.   No equal trust being forstered between that traveller and myself at the inquiry stage ....so no further did I go with "helping" her.

                I work at it to foster the trust, on my end.  But the traveller NEEDS TO BE EDUCATED about HOW TO INQUIRE....and the INQUIRY SYSTEM needs to work for us -- owners -- too.

                Just my opinion.

        • kastnersbeachhouse Contributor 49 posts since
          Mar 13, 2012
          Currently Being Moderated
          May 11, 2012 8:38 AM (in response to msdebj)
          Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

          The bit about credit card chargeback protection bothers me.....it could give less than honest people the idea to just complain to the credit card company and get a refund.  I have had this happen to me before on Ebay.  I sold a rather large item, the person emailed me to tell me how much they liked it and then complained to the credit card company that it wasn't "as described"  The credit card company never asked for my side of the story, they just reversed the charge.  I even produced the picture of the item that clearly showed the detailed item and the email stating the customer was satisfied  and still they were able to get away with it!

    • thale HomeAway Employee 136 posts since
      Oct 27, 2010
      Currently Being Moderated
      May 15, 2012 5:30 PM (in response to mlbmaine)
      Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

      Hi there:

       

      We take your security very seriously at HomeAway. We have investments and projects underway to make your information and accounts more secure. We also have a security team who works to shut down scams when we find them.  One of the reasons we ask security questions on login is to protect your business and your account.

       

      While the vast majority of people are like you - legitimate owners or property managers - the whole vacation rental industry suffers when a traveler gets scammed.

       

      I wrote a blog post about our plans to combat phishing, you can read it here:

       

      http://community.homeaway.com/blogs/homeaway-insights/2012/04/25/phighting-phishing

       

      @mlbmaine and anja - we've been working to get travelers to create profiles on our site that tell you a lot more than just an inquiry with dates, number of guests and a terse "price and availability?". See examples of traveler profiles here

       

      http://www.homeaway.com/traveler/profiles/a3fc1857-0e56-4c38-a55c-518c1736fb93

       

      or here

       

      http://www.homeaway.com/traveler/profiles/7f5528bd-9e82-47fd-a0a1-01f83b5b113f

       

      We're starting to put the links to these profiles in the inquiries, so you can quickly click through to learn more. Of course, it's early days still and we don't have this on VRBO at the moment, but we're trying to make it easier for you to vet travelers.

       

      Looking at it from the traveler point of view, many times they are sending large sums of money for vacations that are months away. And even if one traveler gets scammed, everyone loses - the traveler, the owner, and the vacation rental industry.

       

      @everyone

       

      In terms of payment methods, we support a range of ways for travelers to pay. However, if a traveler uses Reservation Manager™, we guarantee their payment up to $10,000. See our security center: www.homeaway.com/security  for more info.

       

      We all have our roles to play in keeping the vacation rental industry safe -  but one of the most important things we can do to start is to educate travelers, owners and managers about how to be safe. That's a big part of the reason we have put the notifications on property listings after inquiries.

       

      Hope that helps,

       

      Tom

      • anja Senior Contributor 1,555 posts since
        Aug 9, 2011
        Currently Being Moderated
        May 15, 2012 9:05 PM (in response to thale)
        Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

        Thank you, Tom, for your response to the concerns owners have expressed here.

         

        I am particularly pleased to learn about the 'traveler profiles' that will be linked to the inquiries that we receive. This could be very useful for owners, indeed.  We are really working in the dark when it comes to answering inquiries....and I am one who tries hard to foster trust from the get-go because I do have equal concern for the travellers who are uncomfortable sending large amounts of money to a stranger....even though they are afforded so many protections {credit card companies, HA's Reservation Manager}.

         

        It's encouraging, for me, to hear that our {owners'} concerns are considered and some measures are on the way to help us with screening.   I await with bated breath for these to become available.  I want VRBO, where I list, to be a safe place for travellers and owners -- equally!  I do much to help travellers feel safe inquiring with, and renting from, me.  But, my efforts are not equally met by an overwhelming number of inquirers, as the system is set up.  THANK YOU for responding to that issue.

         

        Questions:   To what extent, at the recent Summit, was feedback about the profiles gleaned from the Summit participants {owners} --- ref. a demonstration, and has the profile feature been tested at all with owners, e.g. like a focus group of owners, to hear how they think it could help them?

        • thale HomeAway Employee 136 posts since
          Oct 27, 2010
          Currently Being Moderated
          May 16, 2012 12:33 AM (in response to anja)
          Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

          Hi anja

           

          We did show the profiles feature in the sneaks at the owners summit and it was well received. The sneaks are a session where we demonstrate potential capabilities and ask the audience to vote. It's not scientific but based on applause volume and duration (the applausometer) profiles was in the top 3 of 8. In talking to folks afterwards, the feedback was positive about profiles because they save time for travelers (create a profile once, or import profile info from Facebook, then make it available many times) and for owners and/or managers because they don't have to google names/email addresses/phone numbers.

           

          Of course, the challenge is to get travelers to create profiles. One of the features presented in the sneaks(with no guarantees about whether we will ship it or not) was a way for owners or managers to request that travelers fill out profiles directly from the inquiry.

           

          Hope that helps,

           

          Tom

          • anja Senior Contributor 1,555 posts since
            Aug 9, 2011
            Currently Being Moderated
            May 17, 2012 2:09 AM (in response to thale)
            Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

            Hi again Tom,

             

            Thank you for your responses, thus far.

             

            It's now so important that travelers, self-managed owners, property managers...and I will add advertising portals.... need to work together to educate how to deal with each other safely.  Whatever measure is taken, it needs to 'hit home' to everyone why it's so vital, now.

             

            I think the traveler profile is an interesting feature which could help owners with vetting.    IMO, anything, at this point is worth trying.  I'm not  lising on HA.com  {but I am on two other HA-owned portals} so I suppose it will be awhile before HA integrates the new profile feature on all of its portals}.

             

            As you stated, the challenge is to get travelers to create profiles.   So, for my personal business, I'm thinking about offering an incentive to any traveler with a "profile" who inquires --- I'd make it a valued incentive.  {I have some ideas of a few incentives I could offer...the guests would be offered to chose from.} I've offered incentives for other reasons,  i.e., slow season...special events...etc..,  so why not try to help getting these Traveler Profiles get started, is my view.

             

            I would definitely put a note in my ad listing, in the general description section, for example, as soon as you've got the profile feature on VRBO.  My question:  If enough other owners consider offering incentives for profiles, do you think  HA would create an *icon* for the properties where *profile incentives* are offered... to appear on the search results pages?  It could be an image of a "gift box", for example.  {Sorry, if I'm running "wild" with this idea...but I really want us to find a way to help owners 'vet' inquirers --- by encouraging travelers to create a profile for themselves.}

        • anja Senior Contributor 1,555 posts since
          Aug 9, 2011
          Currently Being Moderated
          May 17, 2012 5:52 PM (in response to mlbmaine)
          Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

          mlbmain, I agree.   The profiles would not be worth as much {to me} if there were no personal data provided.  So, I am admittedly assuming that travelers would have to include personal data when creating a personal profile...and that data would be automatically gleaned and transpired to us in the inquiry {????...would like to hope.}

           

          The reason for my first question, above, was to find out what 'owners' who attended the Summit thought about these profiles.  If they were 'applauded', then I'm assuming that personal data will be included.

          You don't have to scroll to find my question above....I copy it here:

          Questions:   To what extent, at the recent Summit, was feedback about the profiles gleaned from the Summit participants {owners} --- ref. a demonstration, and has the profile feature been tested at all with owners, e.g. like a focus group of owners, to hear how they think it could help them?

           

           

          Perhaps, I'm assuming too much?

           

          What say you, Tom?

          • thale HomeAway Employee 136 posts since
            Oct 27, 2010
            Currently Being Moderated
            May 18, 2012 11:33 AM (in response to anja)
            Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

            Hi here:

             

            @anya and mlbain

             

            Regarding profile functionality - we don't *require* travelers to give us data on profiles. As you imagine our travelers have a variety of viewpoints about privacy and sharing informatoin. Some are very open to creating a rich profile, and some are not. So we don't require this. We could however make a setting that would allow you to set your bar in terms of what requirements you need from a profile to accept inquiries or reservations. For example, you might say, I only accept reservations from people with profiles, and that would an incentive for anyone interested in your property to create one.

             

            This is an incentive, and this potentially could have an impact on the number of folks who create profiles.

             

            The owners who attended the summit really liked the following things about profiles:

             

            - seeing reviews that the traveler had written (if they have) because it's an easy way to gauge the traveler's knowledge of vacation rentals

             

            - knowing if a traveler was also a vacatoin rental owner

             

            - see pictures of the travelers (a picture is worth a thousand words)

             

            - personal data (like employer, college, a blurb about folks) mostly because it lent credibility to the profile not because the information was particularly valuable on its own. Almost everyone I talked to said that photos were the most important part of the profile.

             

            In terms of stopping scammers, there are no silver bullets. Profiles are just one tactic. But the real value of a profile is that it sends a signal about who the counterparty in a vacation rental transaction is. And while some of the content can be fake, some of it (like reviews, or the vacation rental property listing that you owned) is much harder to fake as we review the content. More importantly, if a profile is linked to Facebook, then it's even more difficult to create and maintain a fake personality. It can be done, but it's a lot more work.

             

            So in some sense, one of the benefits of profiles is that it makes it harder to scam. Of course, owners and managers must use their own judgement and make their own assessments - we're just trying to make it less work for you to find information about potential guests and trying to give potential guests a tool to increase the repsonses they get from owners or managers.

             

            Hope that helps!

             

            tom

            • lrbaldwin Active Contributor 754 posts since
              Feb 16, 2011
              Currently Being Moderated
              May 23, 2012 6:34 AM (in response to thale)
              Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

              A profile with a picture?  I think you're skating on thin ice here.  It won't take the ACLU or the government very long to go berzerk over that.  Heck, they don't even want a photo ID required for voting. Suppose I got a request for a week by a black or middle eastern "looking" person, they had 8 adults in the group, and I turned them down because I don't allow that many adults in my cottage, no matter who they are, even though there are enough beds to accomodate them?  For example, I turned down a group of 8 women who were to celebrate their year of turning 40.  The inquirer was quite upset.  Our cottage is simply too small to accomodate 8 adults comfortably.

               

              Linda

              Chatterbox Too in Duck, NC 

              • sophie Senior Contributor 961 posts since
                Mar 4, 2011
                Currently Being Moderated
                May 23, 2012 8:58 AM (in response to lrbaldwin)
                Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

                I am not fond of this idea at all! I think there are huge privacy issues here. As a renter I would hate it. If I am renting a home and the owner looked at my profile it would show that I own 3 vacation rentals. This is information that I would like to reveal ONLY if I want others to know I am an owner with 3 homes. As to the reviews, I think as an owner, we are more aware of how to write a review and when to write a review. What happens if we truly have a poor experience, write a less than 5 star review and all of sudden I can't rent the home I am looking at because the owner might think I will write a bad review for them? What happens then when they target my home/business if they don't like me?

                 

                Personal Data and Pictures....absolutely NOT.

                 

                HA, PLEASE rethink this. This would prevent me from ever renting on HA again.

                • thaxterlane Active Contributor 779 posts since
                  Jul 27, 2011
                  Currently Being Moderated
                  May 23, 2012 8:41 AM (in response to sophie)
                  Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

                  I agree Sophie.  As a renter, I would never participate in a program that required personal data and pictures and I believe there are many travelers that would agree.  I can see this discouraging many travelers, who value their privacy, from using the site to reserve a vacation rental.

                   

                  As a renter, I do not provide personal information until I have determined I am interested in a particular property.  I have noticed many prospective guests that inquire about my house have the same multi-step approach to inquiring about a rental.  An inquiry with basic information is submitted, the owner replies with information about the time period, rate, and other pertinent information.  The prospective guest considers the informaiton and then the screening process begins, owner and renter interviewing each other to determine if the rental is a "good fit" for both parties.

                   

                  As much as owners would like to have better and more information about prospective guests,  I believe owners should put more effort, and take responsibility for, developing their own skills in interviewing and screening prospective guests. 

                   

                  Data gathering that appears intrusive is not in the owner community's interests; a misstep by Homeaway or VRBO in implementing such a program could do extraordinary harm to the rental process. 

                   

                  I'm suggesting all perspectives be considered, and considered again, before implementing such a program.  It could be a disaster.  

                  .

            • thaxterlane Active Contributor 779 posts since
              Jul 27, 2011
              Currently Being Moderated
              May 23, 2012 8:56 AM (in response to thale)
              Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

              Much of the data owners at the summit have expressed an interest in learning about prospective guests is available by doing a simple google search.  School records, employment, property, tax, community, social networks - it's all there with a simple click of the search button.  It's unusual for an individual to not have a footprint on the internet. 

               

              I understand wanting to simplify, but asking about an employer, property ownership, etc is, in my opinion, way over the line for a simple inquiry about a rental property. 

               

              And photos are cited as the most important piece of information about a prospective guest?  That's unbelievable!  What can one determine about a prospective guest's character, personality, and behavior from a photo?

               

              I think the owner community may need some training.  A photo does not communicate the substance of an individual and to suggest it does, is misleading.  Owners should not be encouraged to decide about the suitability of a renter based on their appearance. 

              • thale HomeAway Employee 136 posts since
                Oct 27, 2010
                Currently Being Moderated
                May 23, 2012 11:04 AM (in response to thaxterlane)
                Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

                This is a great conversation, and I want to thank you all for your input!

                 

                @Linda - it's a brave new world, that is for sure. HomeAway profiles with photos provided on an opt in basis are probably not something the government is going to get too excited about especially in a world where 1Bn+ people on the planet have facebook and linked in profiles and are accessbile via google.

                 

                @Sophie and Thaxterlane - Profile data such as photos and demographics are opt in, which is legalese for a traveler needs to choose to add it. So it's their choice. Reviews and Listing content is already public and searchable. And since many owners already screen (via google searches, telephone conversations, etc) it's in the traveler's best interest to put their best foot forward and tell owners and managers about themselves. It's clear that some owners and managers are going to ask questions and do their homework - and if this information is going to come out anyway, and a traveler wants to share it, why not make it easier for everyone involved?

                 

                @Thaxterlane re Photos - the demo that was shown at the owner's summit (and which drove a strong positive response) illustrated the use of photos more as a one datapoint to inform an owner's actions and behavior. In the demo, there were two fictitious travelers: the photo of one showed a party animal with his buddies using a beer bong and the other showed a mother with her kids. If that's how those travelers chose to present themselves, wouldn't you be interested in knowing that?

                 

                @Everyone - profiles are a way for people to put their best foot forward and they can be powerful tools in building trust, particularly if there are parts of the profile that are difficult to game. In the vacation rental space, trust is an important feature of the landscape, and my POV is that it's important for all of us to participate in building trust.

                 

                There's been a lot of requests for the ability for owners to review travelers or to create a bad renter list of people "not to be trusted". A first step is to create the ability for people to share the information they want to in an effort to expand the circle of trust and to reduce the work required to build trust.

                 

                tom

                • lrbaldwin Active Contributor 754 posts since
                  Feb 16, 2011
                  Currently Being Moderated
                  May 23, 2012 11:24 AM (in response to thale)
                  Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

                  "@Linda - it's a brave new world, that is for sure. HomeAway profiles with photos provided on an opt in basis are probably not something the government is going to get too excited about especially in a world where 1Bn+ people on the planet have facebook and linked in profiles and are accessbile via google."

                   

                  Right, until somebody decides to file a discrimination suit.

                   

                  Linda

                • lrbaldwin Active Contributor 754 posts since
                  Feb 16, 2011
                  Currently Being Moderated
                  May 23, 2012 12:02 PM (in response to thale)
                  Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

                  While I have your attention (IOW it seems that you're reading the posts in this thread), I'd like to know why VRBO isn't correcting errors and ommissions in other poorly executed projects before embarking on another.  Over 2 weeks ago I notified VRBO that there were problems with the features filter.  One is obviously incorrect for every area I've looked at:  Outdoor Grilling is not picked up on homes that have grills.  Look at this search of an area in SE Florida.  Click on "Add" next to Filter By.  Now see that there are 2450 properties.  Now look at the "Outdoor Grilling" option.  It shows exactly ONE property of those 2450 has outdoor grilling.

                   

                  I also requested that NO POOL and NO HOT TUB be added to the check boxes for filtering.  The reason for this request is that a tub adds $600-$1000 to weekly rent, and a hot tub adds at least $100.  There are many families who want neither. 

                   

                  Why have these things not been done?  I'm not asking that the wheel be reinvented.

                   

                  Thanks,

                  Linda

                  • carol Senior Contributor 2,136 posts since
                    Dec 10, 2010
                    Currently Being Moderated
                    May 23, 2012 9:16 PM (in response to lrbaldwin)
                    Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

                    I think travelers will be very confused by liisting "NO HOT TUB" and "NO POOL" among the amenites.   It may make sense for your particular area because of the price differential, but it will just confuse everyone else.  

                     

                    People can sort the filtered results by price if they wish, and then your listing will pop up to the top because your price is lower than listings with a pool or hot tub. 

                  • thale HomeAway Employee 136 posts since
                    Oct 27, 2010
                    Currently Being Moderated
                    May 24, 2012 6:00 PM (in response to lrbaldwin)
                    Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

                    Quick update: This issue has been fixed and is in production.  Filtering by “outdoor grilling” shows properties which have marked gas grilling or charcoal grilling as an “outdoor” amenity.

                     

                     

                     

                    Tom

                • thaxterlane Active Contributor 779 posts since
                  Jul 27, 2011
                  Currently Being Moderated
                  May 23, 2012 12:31 PM (in response to thale)
                  Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

                  Thank you for your response.

                   

                  @Thaxterlane re Photos - the demo that was shown at the owner's summit (and which drove a strong positive response) illustrated the use of photos more as a one datapoint to inform an owner's actions and behavior. In the demo, there were two fictitious travelers: the photo of one showed a party animal with his buddies using a beer bong and the other showed a mother with her kids. If that's how those travelers chose to present themselves, wouldn't you be interested in knowing that?

                   

                  _____

                   

                   

                  Does Homeaway believe distinguishing between young men with a beer pong and a mother with children is the information we need?  And we need a photo to be able to do it? 

                   

                  The idea of asking the owner community which of these photos depicts a desirable rental party is very funny.  It also insults the intelligence of your owner community.  

                   

                  Perhaps the mother stored the beer pong before the photo was taken?  Perhaps the young men's choir robes were being laundered?  Silly, I know, but photos are artifice.  We see what the subject or the photographer intends us to see. 

                   

                  Proflies will be of limited use because they will contain information provided by the traveler to create a particular impression; especially a photo (this applies to owner profiles as well).   It is talking with and listening to an individual (or engaging in a thorough email exchange) that will tell an owner (and renter)  what they need to know about the other party and help them make an informed decision. 

                   

                  Profiles may provide a false sense of assurance.  Nothing substitutes for good communication and I repeat my advice that developing interviewing and screening skills is best.   

                   

                  I may be in the minority of opinion, but I believe an owner can't rely on a profile for information.  A profile is superficial.  It's not much of a tool for determining the honesty, responsibility, and reliability of a prospective guest.

                   

                  And, I agree with Linda, discrimination concerns are valid.  Homeaway can't be compared to Face Book - it's not a social network - nothing is being exchanged on Face Book; on Homeaway we are selling a product.  I believe different rules apply.  Profiles could be viewed by some as an opportunity to eliminate prospective guests for less than honorable reasons.  Don't think is won't happen. 

              • kastnersbeachhouse Contributor 49 posts since
                Mar 13, 2012
                Currently Being Moderated
                May 24, 2012 1:02 AM (in response to thaxterlane)
                Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

                I agree thaxterlane about pictures not telling a true story.  Would I have rented to Ted Bundy by looking at his picture....yup, I would have to say that I would of seen a clean cut, professional, family man by looking at his picture.....Would I have rented to the man down the street who wears chains, has 6 or 7 tattoos, a very long ponytail and braids.....probably not...and he is a professional, responsible family man....Pictures just don't show the true person....I would hate to sterotype and miss out on some good rentals because of pre conceived notions I might have or have not of someone.  And on the flip side, I would hate to approve a renter only to find out later that he was a menace to my condo or the neighbors  just because he seemed ok!  SK

            • anja Senior Contributor 1,555 posts since
              Aug 9, 2011
              Currently Being Moderated
              May 23, 2012 12:02 PM (in response to thale)
              Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

              Hi Tom,

               

              Questions:  The proposed *profile* is what exactly?  What details does it contain?  I'm wondering if HA-VRBO is taking some suggestions from owners for information in the inquiry form a bit far.  I'm thinking that there is a misunderstanding of "personal data".

               

              For those of us that were not at the Summit to experience the *peek*, what kind of details are you going to be asking travellers for?  My concern is that  they hardly complete the short inquiry form that exists now... so I'm not convinced that travellers will "create an account and add *personal data* ...just to make an inquiry.   That's not what I have been missing in the process.   My idea of *personal data* is basic info.

               

              As an owner, so that I may know what/how to directly respond to an inquiry, the only information that I like, as I expressed in several of my earlier threads, is for the *inquiry form* that we presently have,  to be mandated to fill in *completely* ---- full name, telephone #, email address, where they are from {State, Country}, number of people {include ages of children}, and comments ---  or it will not *send*.  Just fill in the form we have now ...but fill it in thoroughly.  I get too many inquiries from  JJ  or  Flip   or  Hunter Family --- no tel#  ---  no ages of children (who are often almost adults) ---throw-away emails --- and negligent on the comments.  [JJ  I need a week. send rate and availability. thx.]   IMO, the negligence has been aided by the "bulk inquiry"....my pet peeve ---- I'd love you to abolish it.

               

              My wish:  just complete the form we presently have expanding it to have them give ages of children /  or no children .... or it will not *send*.

               

              If we could see past reviews for places, that's fine with me....it could be helpful...they are exposed on TA, FlipKey and  other portals, anyway.  I don't get much information from reading about where they've been before...but I don't mind if you include them.

               

              I never thought about the need to see a photo of an inquirer, however. It's not been my wish.  I've been renting for years without ever needing to see photos. But... contrary to what others think, I don't think there are privacy issues with photos, however, because people are willfully uploading their photos to FB, TA, FlipKey, AirB&B...and even here  on HA's Community Forum.  The key word is "willful" ...so they should not be required to do it...IF  they choose to create a profile.   If people want to do that, fine with me...but I don't need it.   As long as a *choice* is given  to add a portrait or *not* I don't see any issues with privacy violations.

               

              I personally do not willfully upload my "pesonal data" on the Internet ....not willfully.    I do not *social market* myself.  I market my business, only.  Most people these days do personal social marketing, however....and it's with their full will to put even nude photos  of themselves on the Internet. I find interesting photos on FB all time when I'm *screening*.....most unimpressive usually.  YouTube is chock full of "private" details that are willfully uploaded.  I don't care either way.

               

              Community members here uploaded portraits of themselves quite willfully....some travellers will do it....some will not.   I will not --- unless I decide to do so myself if I feel the need.   P.S. during the booking process I do reveal to my guests who I and my husband are...and we do voluntarily exchange photos.  They get to know a lot about us before they arrive.  I do a lot to foster trust.

               

              So,  I do not advocate a personal profile if it's *mandated* to provide private info about themselves just to send me an inquiry.   My frustration has been all along with getting scant info in the present *inquiry form* which hinders being able to do a quick *screen/search*....before I send them my offer.    I really don't need to know if they own a house, or their education level, or job title, or where they travelled ----

               

              ---  so ---   What exactly is contained in the proposed personal profile?

              • lrbaldwin Active Contributor 754 posts since
                Feb 16, 2011
                Currently Being Moderated
                May 23, 2012 12:08 PM (in response to anja)
                Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

                Anja,

                 

                "My wish:  just complete the form we presently have expanding it to have them give ages of children /  or no children .... or it will not *send*."

                 

                I totally agree!  If there's no phone number, I simply email the enquirer that I will be happy to call him at a time he prescribes if he will email me his phone number.  I also give my phone number and say that he is welcome to call me.  No phone call, no rent.  If there is little to no information filled out in the form, I just ignore the inquiry.

                 

                Linda

                • thale HomeAway Employee 136 posts since
                  Oct 27, 2010
                  Currently Being Moderated
                  May 23, 2012 1:31 PM (in response to lrbaldwin)
                  Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

                  Great thread - I really enjoy hearing from everyone. So many great comments and ideas - it's really great to hear from you.

                   

                  But there is an undercurrent of negative tone here, and as someone who works hard to serve your needs and advance the cause of vacation rentals, it's a bit offputting. I feel like I am a member of the community and it seems like there is some stored up resentment towards HomeAway that you are painting me with. Oh well, I am committed to participating and engaging with all of you, so it's a good thing I have a thick skin! :->

                   

                  I need to focus on a few other tasks today, but I wanted to wrap up my participation in this thread with the following:

                   

                  @Anja

                  Profiles are not required for inquiries. They are optional. So no fear there. At the summit, we showed the inclusion of links to profiles (where they exist) in the inquiry email. So perhaps that's where your confusion came from

                   

                  @Anja and Linda

                  As to the feature request of making all/most fields required in the inquiry form so that the form won't send without all the info, there are diversity of viewpoints on this one among owners and property managers. Some folks just want first name/last name, email address to be required, others like you want every field to be required. We take our responsibility of delivering the maximum inquiries very seriously, so there is more discussion required on this one to make sure we're striking the right balance. But thanks for your input on this!

                   

                  @Thaxterlane re photos

                  I agree with you that owners are wise to screen their guests. But many vacation rental owners do not have the time or inclination to do so, and for them, a photo is better than nothing. It's not foolproof and yes their can be artifice and it's just one datapoint that may help someone make a decision.

                   

                  @Linda re Filters

                  Congrats - that's a good catch on the filters not picking up grills. The VRBO team is now aware of the issue and will queue it up to be fixed. If you catch others let us know.  Thanks!

                  • lrbaldwin Active Contributor 754 posts since
                    Feb 16, 2011
                    Currently Being Moderated
                    May 23, 2012 1:54 PM (in response to thale)
                    Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

                    "If you catch others let us know."

                     

                    OK.

                     

                    Are they aware that there should be NO POOL and NO HOT TUB check boxes in the filter?  Minimal work, and I can't think of a single reason adding these would be to anybody's disadvantage.  Maybe I'm missing something, but nobody's said anything to me about it.

                     

                    In the filters under "number of bedrooms" and "sleeps", these are radio buttons, so one can choose only one of 1+, 2+, 3+, etc.  When 1+ is chosen, all the properties are returned, so not much of a filter.  Is there some reason these can't also be check boxes: 1, 2, 3,........9, 10+ or something similar so that those looking for a 3 or 4 bedroom home don't have to see those with 5 BR and more also?  Isn't this what a filter is for? I've nad no response from VRBO about these either.

                     

                    Want another? 

                    I did a search on homes in my area and filtered for owner managed only.  I tested several inquiries to homes in this area.  As soon as I submitted the inquiry, the page comes up with 10 comparables.  Of those 10 comparables, 8 of them were managed by property managers.  Shouldn't the filter also work for comparables?

                     

                    If I am being negative, I'm sorry.  It's just that it's been about 2 weeks since I emailed one of your employees about these things and was told that they'd be passed along.  At that point I was very positive, hoping that my testing would be of some help. I think the filter is extremely helpful to both renters and owners, but I think it needs some work and should have been tested more thoroughly before taking it live.

                     

                    Thanks for listening and responding.

                     

                    Linda

                    • msdebj Senior Contributor 1,350 posts since
                      May 25, 2011
                      Currently Being Moderated
                      May 23, 2012 2:12 PM (in response to lrbaldwin)
                      Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

                      Kind of off thread, but re: profiles:   2 things combined bother me. Requiring a photo and the word " profile ".

                       

                      In today's political climate it would be wise to come up with another term, if HA is going to require photos. Why give reason for a potential conflict if it's not necesssary?

                       

                      A fellow neighboring VR owner recently had to deal with an ugly situation, (accused of profiling a potential guest). Inquiry received, owner notified them it was available AT THE TIME, bith via email and phone. Potential Guest  responds 2 weeks later saying they wanted to rent. Alas, it had been booked the previous day. The potential guest made wild accusations that the owner was discrimninating, since the inquirer was of a specific minority. Threatened legal action, etc. etc.  GIANT HEADACHE.

                       

                      (And no, the owner had no idea of the potential guest's ethnicity- and would NEVER take that into account) But in today's world,,,

                       

                      Just adding my 2 cents.

                      Debj

                  • thaxterlane Active Contributor 779 posts since
                    Jul 27, 2011
                    Currently Being Moderated
                    May 23, 2012 2:33 PM (in response to thale)
                    Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

                    Thank you for your response.

                     

                     

                    "But there is an undercurrent of negative tone here, and as someone who works hard to serve your needs and advance the cause of vacation rentals, it's a bit offputting. I feel like I am a member of the community and it seems like there is some stored up resentment towards HomeAway that you are painting me with. Oh well, I am committed to participating and engaging with all of you, so it's a good thing I have a thick skin!"

                     

                     

                    I regret if I have contributed to your discomfort.  I am simply attempting to express my point of view. 

                     

                    My concern is change that will negatively affect my ability to market my property on Homeaway and VRBO.  I do not see much benefit in the profile project as described.

                     

                    To repeat, I believe Homeaway/VRBO would better serve their owner community by offering advice and training in interviewing and screening prospective guests. 

                     

                    I searched the forum for discussion of these topics and didn't come up with much.  Perhaps I didn't search on the proper terms.

                     

                    Think of the negativity as healthy criticism.  It could be worse . . . .   In my professional career I have learned to have the skin of a rhinosauros.  As director of an academic department at a major university I would distribute memorandum to faculty regarding university and department policies, many of which were unpopular.  There were several faculty that would wait for me to be present at the mail boxes to read my memos with a disgusted look on their face, scrunch up the sheet of paper, and throw it at my feet.  

                     

                    The comments in this forum have been polite, if negative.  Would you rather not hear our opinions?

                    • lrbaldwin Active Contributor 754 posts since
                      Feb 16, 2011
                      Currently Being Moderated
                      May 23, 2012 2:52 PM (in response to thaxterlane)
                      Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

                      Thaxterlane,

                       

                      Very well said, and thank you for that.  I think every bit of criticism here by the owners is surely constructive criticism.  We're here to help make improvements.  Simple negativity without suggestions would be useless and destructive, and I don't think anybody wants  that.

                       

                      Linda

                  • anja Senior Contributor 1,555 posts since
                    Aug 9, 2011
                    Currently Being Moderated
                    May 23, 2012 5:47 PM (in response to thale)
                    Re: VRBO Security Warning on Listing

                    Hi Tom,

                    I've been appreciating the dialogue you've engaged in here in the Community.  I hope that my comments haven't been off putting.  I'm grateful to get any details that you are sharing here.  From the beginning of this discussion, I've been happy to know that HA is taking into account the issues, especially on security, that owners have been expressing over the past months, here.  I am on record for wanting a *full and complete* inquiry form --- that's all that I was hoping for.

                     

                    Personally...

                    I have no issue with the creation of personal profiles that are optional [you said they would be, from the start].

                    I have no issue with traveler portraits being included, if travelers want to.

                    I have no issue with seeing travelers' reviews posted. Maybe we can glean something interesting...or not.

                     

                    I'm open to new ideas...I'm open to a "trial period"....I think others would like to be more involved in perhaps "testing" as users...to help you shape what works...what doesn't.  Why not involve owners in a Beta...ask them if they want to participate helping to shape this?

                     

                    I do have a problem with a continued 'negligent' inquiry landing in my inbox, whether sent "bulk" or not.  That is actually what I meant when I stated, earlier, that I'd welcome what I termed "personal data"....because I just assumed that the content would be the following...and why:

                    A full name, telephone number, state/country of origin, email address, the number of adults and the ages of children is *basic* information that any hotel or inn would require someone to provide when they inquire....either via the Internet booking portals, or via phone contact.   I find it *very* odd that some owners and property managers just think that a full name and email address {commonly a free throw-away one that leads to zero Internet traces} is enough for them to feel secure.

                     

                    Personally, I don't see the problems that others see in creating "optional" traveler profiles {you can change the name  from profile to something similar....it doesn't worry me....it didn't worry me at all when I joined this Community Forum and completed my "personal profile" here.    To avoid any misunderstandings of the purpose, you can just call it a "Bio".  Regardless of what it's called, the most important thing is that it is optional.

                     

                    One concern I do have:  creating a 'traveler account'  could disuade travelers from using VRBO. It used to be a simple procedure for a traveler to contact an owner, direct.  No hoops to jump through.  I'm concerned that all the bells/whistles and hoops will drive many travelers away from VRBO.

                     

                    Having said that, I'm liking the tone of  more secure ways for owners and travelers to communicate with each other....so we know that we are both legit!   I did read your article in the "Blog" section on "Phighting Phishing"   {everyone should...it will answer some questions...and generate new ones, for certain}.

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