**Join the Phishing and Scams Report group on Community to receive email alerts every time we post information on a vacation rental scam.
Do you ever get a funny feeling about a potential renter after receiving their inquiry or talking to them on the phone? If a red flag goes off – even a tiny one - it's time to do a little investigating. And lucky for you, there is no need to hire Magnum PI to do the leg work for you these days. With the World Wide Web at your fingertips, you can glean some information about your prospective renters before accepting a booking.
- By learning how to spot a scam, you can determine whether an inquiry is from a legitimate person or exhibits too many of the telltale signs. Better safe than sorry if you have a suspicion!
- Go to WhitePages.com and type their information into the basic “People Search” on the homepage. Does the information that pops up match the information they gave you? If the phone number doesn't match, don't assume the worst. The number they gave you could be unlisted, a cell phone, or a business number. Next, try clicking the “Reverse Phone Number” tab and entering their information. Does their phone number match their name? If you have their address, click the “Reverse Address” tab and enter their given address into the field. If both the phone number and address that they gave you don't match up with their name, that's a pretty clear sign that your potential renter may not be who they say they are.
- Figure out where prospective renters live by doing an area code lookup . If they live nearby, they might be looking to rent your home to host a party, which may not be quite what you had in mind.
- Do a basic Google search. Search for their name in quotation marks: “John Smith.” If the name is very common, try to narrow it down with the information you have on hand, like the city and state. You can also search for a renter’s phone number and e-mail address. (Type in the phone number without the parentheses around the area code for the best results. If nothing shows up for the e-mail address, search for the part before the @ symbol.)
- Find online social networking profile(s) for potential guests. Although we don’t suggest becoming a “friend” of every prospective renter you encounter, you might be able to learn some information from their personal profiles (depending on the privacy settings they have selected). LinkedIn profiles are typically public, unlike a lot of Facebook profiles. Because LinkedIn is a professional networking site, you may be able to cross-reference job titles if the renter mentioned it in his/her e-mail.
If your searches don't turn up any results, don't immediately assume that the renter is not who they say they are. You might have trouble finding a renter if he/she is unlisted, only has a cell phone, or rents a home instead of owning one. This investigatory process has yet to be perfected, so if you have techniques for finding the skinny on potential renters, please send them our way.
© Copyright HomeAway, Inc. 2007