38 Replies Latest reply: Feb 22, 2015 9:25 AM by ruthejp13 RSS

    Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!

    New Member

      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.

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

          ==> 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!

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

            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.

             

             


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

              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

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

                After weeks and weeks of contacting HomeAway through phone, email, contacting police and FBI, and the actual property owner, NOBODY wants to help. HomeAway doesn't take any responsiblity for anything.

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

                  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.

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

                    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?

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

                      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!!!

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

                        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.

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

                          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.

                            • Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!
                              swlinphx Premier Contributor

                              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.

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

                                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.

                                  • Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!
                                    swlinphx Premier Contributor

                                    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.

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

                                        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!

                                                                                                                        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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                                          • Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!
                                            swlinphx Premier Contributor

                                            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.

                                              • Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!
                                                bobcranston New Member

                                                Would you please quit rambling on about the risks of wiring money, we got it.  The issue is why isn't homeaway/VRBO protecting its reputation and its customers from these fraudulent acts of phishing emails which electronically embezzle money from innocent parties and protect the party receiving the illegally obtained funds.  Banks protect the criminals in these types of cases.  It's time for the banks and rental websites to get more aggressive in solving these cases instead of insulating them under cash wire guidelines.

                                                  • Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!
                                                    mike-dfv Community All-Star

                                                    I'm pretty sure that the HomeAway guarantee only applies to payments made through their system, not to payments made through other means. That's not to say that they shouldn't be much more helpful in a case like yours. They should, in my opinion, actually be helping you to resolution. After all, your experience gives a black eye to our industry, listing sites included.

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

                                          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

                                            • Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!
                                              swlinphx Premier Contributor

                                              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.

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

                                                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

                                                  • Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!
                                                    robert.larick New Member

                                                    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.  . 

                                                     

                                                     


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

                                                      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.

                                                  • Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!
                                                    lincoln Active Contributor

                                                    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.

                                                    • Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!
                                                      sterly New Member

                                                      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.

                                                      • Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!
                                                        mrpatchy New Member

                                                        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

                                                        • Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!
                                                          bobcranston New Member

                                                          The same issue here.  I was emailing and negotiating with a person  I thought was the owner as represented by the email  link  on the Homeaway website.  THis email was fraudulent and did not belong to  the actual  owner.  I wired the  cash for a 3 month stay in Miami Beach enticed by a full payment discount and 72 hour time limit to  respond.  I called the bank two hours later and they have not replied.  Home away said it was phishing and they were not responsible.  Why isn't Homeaway liable for fraud on  their website  and why arn't they doing something to  stop  it.  Their homepage ensures that they the safest and most secure website to deal with.  What a misrepresentation that is.  Now I'm out my money and no  one seems to care.  If I  had been robbed of that amount the police would be involved in the investigation---In this case it is just like, "oh it happens all the time."  SO STOP IT FROM HAPPENING TO YOU>  DO NOT TRUST INFO  IN ANY HOMEAWAY/VRBO Listing.  You too could be a victim.  Retired school teacher, not new to contracts.  Robert Cranston

                                                          • Re: Beware of this new fraud/scam system! URGENT!
                                                            susaninrehoboth Senior Contributor

                                                            3 years since the original post. Some things never change. So much for 2 factor authentication solving the scamming problems.