I’ve blogged previously about the rise of phishing in the vacation rental industry (What is Phishing? And Why It's Important to You...). The situation hasn’t gotten better: bad guys continue to target our customers and too often successfully access our owner’s personal email accounts and use them to steal from your guests. Phishing remains a serious problem on the internet in general and is a particular threat to vacation rental owners who do not educate themselves on how to securely protect their email accounts.
We at HomeAway work hard to create a secure marketplace for the vacation rental business we participate in and love. After listening to much feedback on the subject from you, our customers, HomeAway is proud to introduce a more secure way for you to communicate with travelers who inquire on HomeAway.com and VRBO.com about your vacation rental properties.
HomeAway has developed an email exchange process that displays an anonymous view of your email address to the traveler and the inquiring traveler’s email address to you. The message is privatized and will be addressed from an email alias ending in “@messages.HomeAway.com.” You can continue to reply to inquiries through your email account, or if you wish, you can reply through the owner dashboard, where you can always view the entire conversation history for each guest. Once in the owner dashboard, you can view the traveler’s email address.
All inquiries will be sent through HomeAway’s system to help protect your email account from identity theft (phishing) and to keep someone who has successfully phished your email account from seeing the traveler’s email address and trying to communicate with them as you. After talking with many owners, we believe this will have a minimal impact on the way you conduct business as it is also a practice you are likely familiar with through other websites such as LinkedIn or Etsy. Remember, at any time, you can access the traveler’s email address within your dashboard. You also can choose to conduct the conversation within your personal email inbox once you receive the inquiry through your dashboard. But keep in mind, if you copy and paste the email address into a new email using your email provider, any bad guy who has phished your account can see it, too.
Please note that we do not recommend giving travelers your email address, as the conversation will no longer be protected.
In addition to providing an extra level of security to your traveler interactions, this new feature enables you to keep your traveler communications in the same location as your reservation tools, calendar, rates, quotes and payment requests. And, all of your correspondence is also stored within your dashboard for convenient access to your conversations with travelers.
We understand that the new process may take a period of adjustment before we are all used to it. However, security is paramount in this business and the protection of potential travelers and the education of our owners as to how bad people can hurt good people like you is an extremely high priority for HomeAway. Thank you to all of our customers who provided us with the input to develop the service that we hope will help you and HomeAway provide the best and most professional experience in the industry to travelers.
If you have additional questions on this new feature and would like to familiarize yourself on communication best practices, please visit the HomeAway Security Center: http://www.homeaway.com/info/security?Owners/Owner-Best-Practices.
Co-founder and Chief Strategy and Development Officer