16 Replies Latest reply: Aug 22, 2013 3:41 PM by tucsonwisewoman RSS

    Blacklisting by VRBO???

    Active Contributor

      I just learned from a prospective renter when he called me, that he has sent me an Inquiry three times that I never received. I ended up sending a test inquiry to see where the issue might be, and I received my test Inquiry though. This then leads me to speculate that the prospective renter must have been in VRBO’s Blacklist of “do not send the inquiry to the owner”. He was a legitimate Prospective Renter as far as I can tell. We chatted for a while, answered all my venting questions, i.e. how many, ages, address, phone number, purpose of visit, etc. He was puzzled why he hasn’t received any response. Had he not called me, there is no way he would have known that I never received any of his Inquiries either. My concern is that VRBO doesn’t seem to have a mechanism for rectifying this type of situation, and those who are in VRBO’s Blacklist when they are not supposed to be there, are in a blackhole and never to receive a response ever. After such an experience, I can’t blame them for having a bad impression of VRBO and not using it ever again. Who can blame them?

       

      I would appreciate a VRBO staff comment on this issue?

       

      How does VRBO Blacklist an Inquirer? What criteria does VRBO use for someone to be listed in their Blacklist of “do not send an inquiry to the owner”? What exactly is blacklisted; their email address, phone number or IP address? How can a legitimate prospective renter know that he/she is in the list, and what steps can he/she take to have it removed?

        • Re: Blacklisting by VRBO???
          shannon.martin HomeAway Employee

          Hi tfv,

           

          In answer to your question, all inquiries sent through our online system do go through a system that checks for  criteria that might indicate fraud or other spam-like activities. It's very possible that your renter was a legitimate renter that may have connected from an IP address that had previously been marked as nefarious in some way (bad guys borrow real IP addresses to mask their intent). We also screen for things that appear to be spam based on certain keywords (including profanity). If a legitimate renter contacts our Customer Support team, we can check their email address to ensure it's not being blocked. I hope this helps explain the difficulties.

           

          Regards,

          Shannon

            • Re: Blacklisting by VRBO???
              Active Contributor

              ==> If a legitimate renter contacts our Customer Support team, we can check their email address to ensure it's not being blocked. <==

               

              IF? Your reliance on “if” is much flawed. How can they tell you when they are not aware that they are on your blocked list? Why not generate a pop-up message or send them an email?

            • Re: Blacklisting by VRBO???
              kiawahcottage Community All-Star

              Hi tfv,

               

              You may be entirely correct that this is a legitimate inquirer who has been unfairly blocked.  I am not suggesting that you are wrong.  Just making sure you are aware that the "I (or 'my mother') inquired several times with no response" phone call is one of the modus operandi of the the phishing scammers.  It is a way for them to harvest e-mail addresses for their business after they are blocked.  I have had this phone call twice.  For your own good be very wary of any "please log in to your (e-mail) account" pop ups you may encounter if you gave them your e-mail adress.

               

              Paul

                • Re: Blacklisting by VRBO???
                  thaxterlane Senior Contributor

                  I agree.  The "I've sent you three emails and you haven't responded" is a variation of the phone call I have received several times in the past months.

                   

                  I think it's becoming very risky to provide information about your property (the address, in particular), and yourself (name, email, etc) to first time callers.

                   

                  As I wrote on another thread, I have removed my name from my voice mail greeting.  I would rather appear "cool" to callers (unfriendly is too stong a word here)  than provide my name (an unusual one) to anyone that happens to find my property and telephone number and decide to target me for a scam.  I'm not going to help them gather information.

                   

                  I'm not sure what they do with this information (beyond the phishing scams that are the rage at present), but in my readings about safeguarding your personal security, small bits of information can cause big problems when in the wrong hands. 

                    • Re: Blacklisting by VRBO???
                      susaninrehoboth Senior Contributor

                      Thaxterlane,

                       

                      Oh, I'm so glad you mentioned what I thought was the obvious. Unless tfv has the only listing within at least a 50 mile radius of where the vacationer wants to be, I can't imagine emailing 3 times, let alone following up with a phone call.

                       

                      Would anyone who participates in this forum email 3 times & then call for a VR they were interested in renting?  I sure wouldn't.

                        • Re: Blacklisting by VRBO???
                          Active Contributor

                          Like I said, the Inquirer was legitimate. When he called me, my phone display picked up his telephone number. I did a search of the telephone number and it was a listed number in Seattle, about 350 kilometers away from my property. When he replied to my email, his email extended header information reflects an IP address that matched the city where the telephone number was listed - Seattle. The Inquirer’s voice over the phone was like any other American male - speaks perfect English. We chatted quite a bit over the phone and I have gotten to know him better and he answered all my usual vetting questions. This is not the same scammer with a Middle Eastern Accent that was not fluent or well versed in the English language that was reported here months ago and whose line over the phone goes something like this: I sent an email but no response; I am calling for my mother.... (this man would quickly hang up when asked more probing questions).

                           

                          Your warnings may serve a useful purpose for owner’s that did not see the threads about 5 months ago pertaining to a caller with a heavy accent, and if those owner’s have any suspicion that they have gotten a similar call, I suggest to do a back search of previous discussions here regarding that specific thread.  However, what I recently brought up is not the same, and is valid as well.

                           

                          How can a legitimate prospective renter know that he/she is in the Blacklist, and what steps can he/she take to have it removed?

                           

                          Like I said, Shannon’s response reveals a flawed process. VRBO’s procedure is predicated on an “IF” scenario that assumes affected inquirer knows he/she is on VRBO’s Blacklist and should therefore call. That is not normally the case. A more plausible scenario is that they will have an impression that owners are not responsive to inquiries and may just walk away from using VRBO in the future.

                            • Re: Blacklisting by VRBO???
                              thaxterlane Senior Contributor

                              I  understand your inquiry turned out to be legitimate.

                               

                              Just to note, not all scammers have a "Middle East" or "heavy accent".  A few of the odd calls I have received have been made by men and women that speak without an accent.

                              • Re: Blacklisting by VRBO???
                                shannon.martin HomeAway Employee

                                Hi tfv,

                                 

                                Yes, the process we use may appear flawed in some situations, but that is because we are using an automated system to apply rules that our trust and security team have identified. And yes, there are a lot of "IF" scenarios.  I would imagine the  reasons we don't tell people their inquiries have been blacklisted immediately are:

                                 

                                1. We don't want to tell actual bad guys they were blacklisted, so they can determine with trial and error WHY they are being filtered. Our owners would not be happy if they started getting more spam!

                                2. We do have a team of humans that review inquiries that are stuck in the filter daily to determine if they are potentially legitimate or indicators of new efforts to misuse the inquiry system in some way.  So they may allow some to go through after manual review.  Can you imagine looking through a few thousand a day?

                                 

                                I'm not sure what triggered your inquirer to end up in our filter, but let's take an example:  Imagine that our team has noticed a few thousand scam attempts from inquiries coming from the country of Nincompoopia.  We might apply a filter for any inquiry from that country.  There may actually be a legitimate traveler who happens to reside there, but our system doesn't know they are legitimate, it just knows they are from Nincompoopia.

                                 

                                That legitimate inquirer may not realize their inquiry has not arrived on the other end, which is why it's a good idea to have a phone number for inquiries, too.  In answer to your other post, we recently added technology that only shows the owner phone number AFTER an inquiry has been sent.

                                 

                                We are committed to making this a more trustworthy marketplace, for both owners and travelers, so we are constantly looking for  better ways to accomplish this effort.  It's not perfect, so please continue to make suggestions for improvement - we always welcome feedback! In fact, we have a group on Community dedicated to this effort, so please chime in here.

                                 

                                Regards,

                                Shannon

                                • Re: Blacklisting by VRBO???
                                  thaxterlane Senior Contributor

                                  I had a telephone call yesterday from a very eager and pleasant older woman who claims she emailed me through vrbo last week (she was specific, she emailed me on Thursday) and since I did not respond she was calling, to inquire about my property for the 2013 season. She cited my property number, complimented my house, and talked about how much she loves visiting the destination. She clearly states she wants to book my house.  Very decisive for an opening conversation, although I have had other individuals call and get directly to the point.  So, I'm not particularly concerned.

                                   

                                  I explained my process to her - I am currently booking  current clients that wish to return in 2013 and would need a few minutes, at a minimum, to review my records, and determine if the week she requested would be open in 2013.  She agreed to a telephone call or email response and the conversation ended.  I have her name, telephone number, and email address.  I did a quick search to determine something about this person and found substantial documentation of home address, employment, family members - it's all there to review.   Individual exists - check.  Telephone number corresponds to community of individual's residence - check.  Email is valid - this can't be determined.

                                   

                                  I reviewed my records and the week is available.  I telephone the number and my call goes into a voicemail box.  I leave a message that the week is available.

                                   

                                  I have not received a telephone call from this individual and I am beginning to wonder if this is a legitimate inquiry.  In my experience, someone as eager as this individual would respond within hours of a message. 

                                   

                                  On the surface, the call wasn't different from other calls I have received, EXCEPT for the part about emailing and not getting a response.  The account she provided is a yahoo account.  Yahoo has had some recent difficulties with identify theft that could cause homeaway/vrbo to block yahoo inquiries.   I've received odd links in emails from friends that use yahoo and aol recently and deleted them.  I know emails can be compromised.  I'm not a neophyte in this regard.  Perhaps her inquiry has been caught in a filtering process.

                                   

                                  I now believe I should have smacked myself upside the head at my foolish reasoning!  I have never responsded to this type of overture before, and have wanred against it.   Yikes. 

                                   

                                  I think I've been had.  It appears someone is using an identify of a real person.

                                   

                                  I'm confused.  I have submitted the name, telephone, and email address to vrbo and I'm awaiting a response.

                                   

                                  I'm wondering where such an interaction leads, if the individual is not legitimate. 

                                   

                                  She doesn't have any information that is not already posted on my listings or personal website which is linked to my homeaway and vrbo listings. 

                                   

                                  I'm VERY confused . . . . . .

                                   

                                  Is she real or is she trolling for information, and if so, to do what? 

                                    • Re: Blacklisting by VRBO???
                                      thaxterlane Senior Contributor

                                      Here's the response from vrbo:              :

                                       

                                      *******

                                      Dear _____,

                                       

                                      Thank you for contacting VRBO.com Trust & Security.

                                       

                                      We have searched our system for <xxx.xxxxxx@yahoo.com.>  This person does not appear to be blatantly suspicious, however her requested arrival dates have already passed.  We always recommend using caution when it comes to potential guests.

                                       

                                      Our Community provides helpful information regarding how to spot a vacation rental scam inquiry. To learn more, visit:

                                      http://community.homeaway.com/docs/DOC-1678

                                       

                                      You can educate yourself on renting safely and phishing prevention at:

                                      http://www.homeaway.com/info/security

                                       

                                      HomeAway is working ******* HomeAway Secure Communication, a new system that will add heightened protection to correspondence between vacation rental owners, property managers, and travelers. Learn more here:

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

                                       

                                      Thank you for your help keeping VRBO safe!

                                       

                                      Best regards,

                                      Kristi

                                      U.S. Trust & Security

                                      VRBO® | HomeAway® | VacationRentals™

                                       

                                      *******

                                       

                                      I will wait and see if I hear from this person.  As I wrote earlier, she appeared to be legitimate, if not for the reference to the missing email, my telephone call being shunted into the voicemail box (which lacked identifying information), and a lack of  response from someone who wanted to not only rent a week but possibly extend it to two weeks (she suggested it would depend on adult children's schedules - a common situation for many of my families).

                                       

                                      She may be legitimate and taking her time responding, she may have lost interest, or she may not be a real person. 

                                       

                                      The response from vrbo doesn't explain much; it's not clear if she submitted an inquiry to me, to other owners, or when an inquiry was submitted.

                                       

                                      I don't know .how to use the information that "her requested arrival dates have already passed".  She asked me about 2013.   Did she include these dates in an inquiry on Thursday of last week? Or was it an old inquiry for a different stay? 

                                       

                                      I seem to have an odd situation, for now, but not "blatantly suspicious" in the words of vrbo.  Perhaps an answer will appear, and then again maybe not . . . .

                                        • Re: Blacklisting by VRBO???
                                          thaxterlane Senior Contributor

                                          I have not had any further communication with this individual.

                                           

                                          I have called the telephone number she provided twice and ended the call when, instead of "ringing", the call went directly to voicemail. 

                                           

                                          Is the direct drop to voicemail meaningful?  I don't know.  But the interaction was odd and I hope to avoid such situations in the future. 

                                           

                                          I requested further information about this individual from vrbo, but have not had a response.

                                        • Re: Blacklisting by VRBO???
                                          tucsonwisewoman New Member

                                          I just got a very strange one by the name of aubrey  a yahoo email?? She agreed to rates dates and then I sent her a contract.

                                          she said she didn't get the rates for my townhouse?? I chalked it up to age. but I am sure she or whom ever it is  isn't a valid  renter.

                                          I have a home I have been in the business for 20 years so I know a scam.

                                        • Re: Blacklisting by VRBO???
                                          thaxterlane Senior Contributor

                                          tfv,  did you seal the deal with this renter?  Just curious.  Thanks. 

                                           

                                          More about my situation below, if anyone is interested.

                                            • Re: Blacklisting by VRBO???
                                              Active Contributor

                                              I did not. When he first called me over the phone, he was only interested of staying for one night with his family of five at my condo property. I didn’t want to at first, so I explained to him that it is not worth it from a renter’s perspective to stay for one night because of the cleaning fee I have to charge whether he stayed for 1 or more nights, that is why I have a minimum of three nights. But he let me know that he was still interested, so I emailed him my detailed rental quote and rental agreement. I have never rented for one night before, and I was going to let this one slip because there was one night available sandwich in-between bookings over a very crowded month for August. After seeing my detailed quote, he  emailed me back saying he would rather stay in a hotel. I got the impression this was the first time he ever considered using vacation rental. Those who have used VRBO before pretty much know they can only get a comparatively much better deal if it was at least three nights or more.

                                    • Re: Blacklisting by VRBO???
                                      gabriel Active Contributor

                                      TFV:

                                       

                                      Keep us posted once the potential renter actually books your property and pays you via credit card or check and if he overpays. I hope you have a happy tenant and profitable rent.