25 Replies Latest reply: Aug 24, 2012 4:20 PM by swlinphx RSS

    This hurts?.. “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.”

    New Member

      A tenant gave me a strange call today. Apparently there is a new pop up on HomeAway stating “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.” I already had email correspondence with this individual verifying availability and process to make the payment. This is completely redundant for me (the owner) and renter and feel that it can create suspicion with renters if the owner is not available to talk. I own 3 properties, work a full time job, have a family, and I’m in a different time zone than my properties.  I don’t have “staff” that can take phone calls, it’s all on me. I have worked very hard to minimize the need to talk on the phone with renters and have been quite successful working this way. Phone conversations  can consume a significant amount of time when everything can be done online efficiently through email. Also often when I do talk to a renter I need to follow it up with an email anyway. If HomeAway insists on renters calling owners It may jeopardize my ability to manage my properties as I have nowhere near the time needed to talk with every single renter. How do others feel about this.. are others in a similar boat?

        • Re: This hurts?.. “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.”
          msdebj Senior Contributor

          SL- I  do most of my interaction via email. But, since all the talk about scammers I now tell my renters I will call them  before I process their 1st payment.  I tell them when I'll be calling. Takes just a minute to make the call. If they are not available I leave a message & ask them to text back or leave a message verifying.

           

          I agree I is another step, but in today's world I guess it's a reality.

          Debj

          • Re: This hurts?.. “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.”
            2barefeet Contributor

            I did a test inquiry this morning just to see what HA had implemented.  You must have had a guest that actually read the 'fine print'.  It is the second item listed on the screen after you inquire - along with other properties you may also like (which is just the listing in my complex and I'm sure they have emailed all).  It also states to carefully read rental contracts and cancellation policies.

              • Re: This hurts?.. “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.”
                Active Contributor

                HA.jpg

                Message appears on my Firefox (but not on my IE) since a couple of weeks ago. Message says "Call to verify reservation and payment details before you pay". I didn't find the same "warning type message" on other listings in the neighbourhood and I've checked a dozen other listings. So it's not universally applied to all. I find this selective and puts me in a disadvantage as I travel a lot and not always home, therefore cannot always answer calls. I had primarily dealt with potential guests through email which I find it convinient and can't maintain my listing without it. I wish HomeAway will find other means to secure their Inquiry system without putting a burden on Owners.

                  • Re: This hurts?.. “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.”
                    shannon.martin HomeAway Employee

                    Hi Tfv,

                     

                    This pop-up message has been recently added to the HomeAway inquiry box to remind travelers they should speak with the actual owner or property manager personally before sending any money (to avoid incidents related to fraud or phishing).   This pop-up only appears after the property has been sent an inquiry.  Since you probably sent the test inquiry via FF, it won't show up in IE.

                     

                    Regards,

                    Shannon

                      • Re: This hurts?.. “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.”
                        Active Contributor

                        Hi Shannon,

                         

                        Thanks for the explanation with regards to the IE. It never occurred to me till I read your explanation.

                         

                        Although the “warning message” is not a bad idea, however in terms of arresting the email-scam problems, it will not achieve the result for the simple reason that you will never achieve 100% compliance, and that is a fact. Travellers will still choose to do what they want for watever reason, valid or not, to make that phone call or not, and a simple warning like that will allow the continuance of this scam. It's a very minor dent to the scammers' nefarious ways if at all has any effect, and allows them to continue undaunted, worst if HomeAway believes that the Warning Message puts a stop to the scam. The Scammers are laughing their head off all the way to the bank.

                         

                        I’ve detailed a system in another thread called "musing on ways how VRBO/HomeAway can secure (foolproof) Email Inquiries” at this link http://community.homeaway.com/message/17608#17608. If you read it carefully, it is a foolproof way of securing Email Inquiries with multiple layers of security. I wish your programmers will have a look at it. Thanks.

                  • Re: This hurts?.. “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.”
                    New Member

                    Thanks everyone. TFV I asked the tenant to tell me where he experienced the HA request and what you illustrate in your included image is exactly what he was talking about.

                     

                    In addition to this I received the below in VRBOs (owned by HA) February Owner Update sent via email..

                    “Guest Phone Screening: Make sure the phone number on your listing is up-to-date. To help keep online payments secure, we are now encouraging travelers to call owners to confirm reservation and payment details before making any payments on the Internet.“

                     

                    It appears HA is pushing this on renters via several avenues and I’m curious if they surveyed owners for stakeholder input. I have sent two support requests to HA (one for my guest phone call and another for the VRBO owner update notice) when I get a response I’ll share it here.

                     

                    The apparent stance HA is taking with this I feel has opportunity for improvement. Creating this burden for owners (and renters) is unreasonable. I’m not sure what the best solution would be but what I would like to see done is HA creating a process to verify owner’s legitimacy (to weed out scammers) this can be accomplished by asking owners to send in a utility bill statement or similar. The job of weeding out scammers on HA websites should not fall on the owners/renters shoulders via inefficient phone verification.

                     

                    Just my 2 cents for what it’s worth.

                    • Re: This hurts?.. “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.”
                      New Member

                      Interestingly I just received a response from VRBO customer support. Below is there response and my reply..

                       

                      Hello,

                       

                      Thanks for contacting VRBO.com Customer Support.

                       

                      I'm sorry that our suggestion poses some inconvenience to you. We are suggesting this because it helps the travelers trust you as an owner, especially when they are sending lots of money for something very important to them - their vacation.

                       

                      We are always working on improving the security of our website for you and travelers and we always do accept feedback. Thank you.

                       

                      We may make revise our policies in the future, but this is one common sense way to help travelers trust someone they are sending lots of money to.

                       

                      Thank you for using VRBO.com—offering more than 150,000 rentals in 100+ countries worldwide.

                       

                      Best regards,

                       

                      -----Original Message-----
                      From: HomeAway/VRBO [mailto:support-cs@vrbo.com]
                      Sent: Saturday, February 25, 2012 3:01 PM

                       

                      Hi,

                       

                      Hope all is well and thanks for the response.

                       

                      It appears HomeAway in addition to VRBO is pushing this on renters via a few different avenues and I’m curious if owners were surveyed for stakeholder input.

                       

                      Per request for feedback I feel there is opportunity for improvement. Creating this burden for owners (and renters) is unreasonable. I’m not sure what the best solution would be but what I would like to see done is HA creating a process to verify owner’s legitimacy (to weed out scammers) this can be accomplished by asking owners to send in a utility bill statement or similar. The job of weeding out scammers on HA websites should not fall on the owners/renters shoulders via inefficient phone verification.

                       

                      I think it’s more important that renters can trust VRBO and HomeAway websites to only list properties from verified/trusted owners via verification process. If I had trust concerns with a product provided by a website I would not want to return to that website.

                       

                      Please let me know what you think and thanks.

                       

                      Best regards,

                      • Re: This hurts?.. “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.”
                        kiawahcottage Community All-Star

                        Hey Slaskarides,

                         

                        This is not about scam listings on HA / VRBO.  This is about legitimate VR owners who have had their e-mails hacked.  The hackers intercept the inquiries, negotiate with and procure payments from hapless travelers.  There are several theories about how this can actually happen but the bottom line is thus far , they can't hack your phone number.  If you get a phone call from a renter and you never saw the inquiry, your e-mail may have been hacked.

                         

                        Don't worry, most of your renters will probably ignore the warning anyway.  The few that do call you can probably take care of in a minute or two.

                         

                        By the way there are several threads about this.

                         

                        Paul

                        • Re: This hurts?.. “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.”
                          New Member

                          Hi Paul,

                           

                          Phone verification for this scenario makes sense to me and I have an idea that may be helpful in removing this burden from owners/renters. HA could at some frequency call owners (this could be automated) to request verification of valid email addresses and rental property transactions. If an owner’s email was hijacked I would expect the owner would stop receiving emails and possibly lose access to their account, unless I’m missing something the owner should relatively quickly get an idea if there email has been hijacked. In this automated phone call from HA the owner could indicate Yes things are normal or No they are not. HA then instead of the request of renters to call owners could state that the property is not verified and to THEN (and only then) call the owner to verify. Otherwise if owner feedback verifies things are ok no request appears on the listing for the renter to call the owner.

                           

                          I’m sure the infrastructure to create a system like this would be complicated but definitely doable (I’m an engineer “by day”).

                           

                          Another idea (just came to me) is HA could send an automated email to the owners email address on file at some frequency and request email verification. Through the HA email the owner would click on a secure link where they would need to input information only HA would know… security questions, SSN, etc.. for example. If a hacker has the owner’s mail address they would not have the appropriate information to complete the request.

                           

                          Maybe some of this was already looked into or talked about.. Thanks again for the feedback.

                            • Re: This hurts?.. “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.”
                              kiawahcottage Community All-Star

                              Slaskarides,

                               

                              Interesting ideas, hopefully they can help HA / VRBO come up with a better defense for this problem.

                               

                              Paul

                              • Re: This hurts?.. “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.”
                                carol Premier Contributor

                                No, HA contacting the owner wouldn't work, the hacker gets into the owner's email account and forwards the mail from Homeaway or VRBO to his/her own address, then all inquiries go to the hacker, not the owner.  The owner's other email is untouched and all the owner sees is a reduction in inquiries -- which can happen normally to any of us.  HA would need to ask the owner specifically if s/he received a particular inquiry. 

                                 

                                We all can do this ourselves by checking the dashboard and making sure we've seen all the inquiries listed there in our email; no need for HA to do it.

                                  • Re: This hurts?.. “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.”
                                    Active Contributor

                                    Reply to shannon.martin

                                     

                                    This warning message to “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay” will not put a stop to the scam/phishing problem that has been going on for more than 6 months now, maybe more. Because it is merely a suggestion and therefore does not achieve 100% compliance. Travellers will still choose to do what they want for whatever reason, valid or not, to make that phone call or not, and a simple warning like that will allow the continuance of this scam. It’s a joke and the Scammers are laughing their head off all the way to the bank. Evidence to that is that they continue with their nefarious phishing scam.

                                     

                                    This is what I would like to suggest to VRBO/HomeAway. It is built on multiple layers of security authentication (at least two) to make it more foolproof for Scammers to penetrate. There should only be two methods for viewing the Email Inquiry depending on which criteria is met by the Owner, and the two methods are.

                                     

                                    1st Method:

                                    Owners with two forwarding email addresses for Inquiry Notification may continue to receive inquiries via email the normal way or as per existing method.

                                     

                                    (with this method, even if the Scammer is able to phish out the email credential of the Owner’s email, there is still a second email that Owner is able to receive an Inquiry putting a stop to thescammer.)

                                     

                                    2nd Method:

                                    Owners with only one email address will receive an email notification message advising them they have an Inquiry and to view it they have to login to their website via their normal method. Once they login, a pop-up window will come up letting them know they have an inquiry and to answer a security Question to view the inquiry. After successfully answering the security question, it takes them to the Inquiry Page to view message. They can then choose to reply from the website, or click on a link to force open their preferred email client or email web browser should they wish to reply with that method.

                                     

                                    (With this method, authentication occurs at two instances (at website login and the security question)).

                                     

                                    Most Owners would probably choose the 1st method, and if they don't have a second email, it is easy to create it. Email programs, as well as Web base email allows the downloading of more than one email address at various source to make it more convinient.

                                • Re: This hurts?.. “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.”
                                  Contributor

                                  I am a traveler who was scammed two weeks ago.  I called the owner's number after initial enquiries elicited responses of dates avail., contract and refund docs., wire transfer details etc.  Someone at the owner's residence in UK told me that the owners were currently in FL, as I am.  I asked for cell phone #, was told they don't have one, and was given their personal email address (different from the address I was already corresponding with).  I sent emails off saying I would not make the payment until I spoke with the owner or their designated management company.  I had a phone call from someone claiming to be the owner and calling himself by the owner's name (owner's name is listed in the HA listing).  He answered a multitude of questions and gave me a fax number to send signed contract, and proof of payment to.  I have since spoken with, on the phone and in person, the real owner and his wife.  They have been renting their properties for 10 yrs. with never a problem such as this.  I am convinced this issue has arisen through no fault or mistake on their part.  They are victims as much as I am.

                                  Speaking on the phone with someone is not necessarily 100% effective for the security of the transaction.  As someone else mentioned, if owners are handling enquiries from a home office, they can not always be there. And the sometimes 100's of email messages they receive concerning their rentals keep them busy enough without adding phone calls.

                                  I believe that HA, VRBO, etc have to have a pop-up that must be read before one can enter the site to shop for a rental.  It must have a specific warning about the alarming increase of the possibility of hijacking of the communications (whoever's fault it may be).  Only a credit card payment is safe.  And at what point you buy insurance from the site to cover losses arising from these hijackings/scams/phishing/hacking.  It can't be "no later than two days of the expected arrival at the rental property" as stated in the published info.  My arrival was to be May 19 2012.  I knew I was scammed 2/22/2012.  Do you think that means I can buy the insurance now and be protected from a loss that has already taken place?   I - DON'T - THINK - SO.......................

                                  • Re: This hurts?.. “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.”
                                    Contributor

                                    As one of the victims of these scammers, I traded more than a dozen emails with who I thought was the owner. The reason HA wants travelers to talk to you is that if we call the owner on the number listed with the ad for your property, we can find out if we are actually dealing with you.  Just ask the UK owner of the Kissimmee property I rented twice.  First from the scammer on 2/13, who emailed me and even called me himself pretending to be the owner.  (And as I had never spoken with the owner, did not know I was being fooled.)  And then the real owner who I signed contracts with this week.  And he told me I was one of 4 people who were scammed over a 7 day period when he was abroad updating his property.  When I sent off my initial inquiry, no pop-up suggested calling the owner first.            Very sorry this may inconvenience property owners.  Losing $3800 is a big inconvenience to me.  And the dozens of victims I have since been in contact with.

                                      • Re: This hurts?.. “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.”
                                        New Member

                                        Hi Keb, Thanks for the input. There are several ways this can be addressed without the need to waste owner and renter time on phone calls. Some are listed in this thread. I received feedback from HoweAway customer support that alternatives to requesting phone conversations is being looked at. Thanks again.

                                        • Re: This hurts?.. “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.”
                                          swlinphx Premier Contributor

                                          I'm completely with keb on this one and don't understand how people "can't be bothered" to take a minute for someone who is going to be spending hundreds or thousands of dollars and staying in your home.  If briefly speaking to a confirmed customer is a hassle then why do business?  A one-minute phone call is in no way too much of a "burden" with all the money and private property at stake.


                                          They are not asking you to take all inquiries by phone, just verify once you have someone wanting to book.  And they are asking them to call you, not you to call them.  I can't believe people think a legitimate business call from someone they will make money from and will be a stranger in their house is too much trouble.  My guess is none of these people have been sued or lost thousands due to a scam.  I always talk to each renter at least once. We require a phone call to book, but I'll handle any and all correspondence before and after by e-mail.  It's not just to put their mind at ease, but it puts mine at ease too.  And I spend very little time on the phone (way more in e-mail).  Also, the ones who inquire by phone have been more likely to book, but that is another issue.

                                           

                                          And before people say "well it takes too long" or "what if I'm away?"  Typing an e-mail can take longer than speaking too.  And, there's a thing called voice mail and answering machines.  Even if you can't be bothered to answer, you are alerted.  If this was a customer who had been talking to a scammer and they even do something so simple as to leave you a message you would immediately know (now I'll wait for someone to say that receiving a voice message from a paying customer is also too much trouble).

                                           

                                          That this is such a contentious issue is truly baffling to me and I can't understand people complaining with all that is at stake on both ends.  How many properties do you have and how many are you renting at once that receiving one call or voice message (that is earning you guaranteed business and saving you and your guest from loss and legal trouble) is too much of a burden?  It puts my mind at ease, but even if it was just for the guest's peace of mind I'm more than willing to alleviate their concerns, especially with all the scams that have happened and that this one simple thing would've prevented almost all of them.

                                           

                                          All three things (the e-mail confirmation system suggested earlier, a phone call before paying and never wiring money) are all great precautions.  One of those alone would prevent most fraud, but all of them together is virtually foolproof!

                                            • Re: This hurts?.. “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.”
                                              marilyn Active Contributor

                                              Hi

                                              I have seven properties which all rent at the same times. My homes are seasonal.

                                               

                                              HOWEVER! I am never too busy or lacking of time to make sure that my business is secure. As previously stated, the owner does not need to make the call (but should). Homeaway suggests the traveler make the call to insure proper identification of homeowner.

                                               

                                              Marilyn

                                                • Re: This hurts?.. “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.”
                                                  New Member

                                                  Hi,

                                                   

                                                  My thought is you don’t need or should need a phone call to ensure your business is secure; this can be done through email correspondence, security deposit, and rental agreements. I think it’s more important that renters can trust VRBO and HomeAway websites to only list properties from verified/trusted owners via verification process or other method. This way phone call verification is not needed. If I had trust concerns with a product provided by a website I would not want to use or return to that website.

                                                   

                                                  RE: Verifying owner identification: There are several ways this can be addressed without the need to waste owner and renter time on phone calls. Several are listed in this thread by various property owners.

                                                   

                                                  99% of the time when I have a phone conversation with a guest I need to follow it up with email instructions anyway and typically ends up a waste of time for both the guest and I.

                                                   

                                                  I just don’t like the idea that HA is basically saying to our possible guests hey don’t trust our listings and call the owner to verify. That’s not a good way to make vacation plans.

                                                    • Re: This hurts?.. “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.”
                                                      swlinphx Premier Contributor

                                                      There are several ways this can be addressed without the need to waste owner and renter time on phone calls.

                                                       

                                                      Hmmm...  I'd like to hear your solution that protects against the most common scam which is an owner's email being hacked and intercepted without their knowledge that a traveler can verify it is them and that is quicker than a phone call.

                                                       

                                                      Personally, I wouldn't want to do business with someone who is so disinterested in my business that they can't be bothered by phone, especially if an urgent situation arises.

                                                        • Re: This hurts?.. “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.”
                                                          New Member

                                                          Hi swlinphx,

                                                           

                                                          Please read this whole thread this was addressed in a previous response.. below is a copy/paste.

                                                           

                                                          “Phone verification for this scenario makes sense to me and I have an idea that may be helpful in removing this burden from owners/renters. HA could at some frequency call owners (this could be automated) to request verification of valid email addresses and rental property transactions. If an owner’s email was hijacked I would expect the owner would stop receiving emails and possibly lose access to their account, unless I’m missing something the owner should relatively quickly get an idea if there email has been hijacked. In this automated phone call from HA the owner could indicate Yes things are normal or No they are not. HA then instead of the request of renters to call owners could state that the property is not verified and to THEN (and only then) call the owner to verify. Otherwise if owner feedback verifies things are ok no request appears on the listing for the renter to call the owner.

                                                           

                                                          I’m sure the infrastructure to create a system like this would be complicated but definitely doable (I’m an engineer “by day”).

                                                           

                                                          Another idea (just came to me) is HA could send an automated email to the owners email address on file at some frequency and request email verification. Through the HA email the owner would click on a secure link where they would need to input information only HA would know… security questions, SSN, etc.. for example. If a hacker has the owner’s mail address they would not have the appropriate information to complete the request.

                                                           

                                                          Maybe some of this was already looked into or talked about.. Thanks again for the feedback.”

                                                           

                                                          I’m 100% available to my guests if they have an issue/concern during their stay. In fact they are three separate individuals they can contact 24/7.

                                                           

                                                          Thanks for the input.

                                                            • Re: This hurts?.. “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.”
                                                              swlinphx Premier Contributor

                                                              That process you describe has a lot of problems and sounds more complicated than the guest making a single phone call to protect their ass and confirm before paying.

                                                               

                                                              First, with what you described HomeAway would have to call and/or e-mail every single advertiser at least once a month.  Then, they would have to make big assumptions that if they didn't hear back by phone or e-mail that there is or is not an issue.  If the person didn't login to verify credentials they can't assume their account has been hacked. Maybe the message went to junk mail or some other issue arose. Same with a voice mail.

                                                               

                                                              The biggest problem however is that they would have to make the call right about the time the e-mail was hacked. Any sooner would do no good and if done later once the scam has been perpetrated they're out of luck too.  It is up to the guest to protect themselves.  I would have absolutely no problem as a guest calling to verify the stranger I am going to send money to and trust to be on the up-and-up when I arrive for my stay, and likewise I'd have  no issue receiving a call from someone prepared to send me money to establish trust and alleviate any apprehension they may have.

                                                               

                                                              Again, the onus is on them to call you.  No hassle on the owner's part whatsoever.

                                                  • Re: This hurts?.. “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.”
                                                    New Member

                                                    Here we go again.. this was included with the VacationRentals.com owners update today (sent out in email)..

                                                     

                                                    “Make sure the phone number on your listing is up-to-date. To help keep online payments secure, we are now encouraging travelers to call owners and confirm reservation and payment details before making any payments on the Internet.“

                                                     

                                                    Is HA ignoring the good ideas noted in this thread? Feels like this industry is starting to unravel.. between the infiltration of hackers and the sweeping increase of restrictions/regulations of short term rentals in many cities across the nation it’s not painting a prosperous future for this industry.

                                                      • Re: This hurts?.. “Call to verify your reservation and payment details before you pay.”
                                                        msdebj Senior Contributor

                                                        I'm curious--- when someone uses the online payment system (Reservation manager tool), is there the padlock icon on the lower tier of the site?

                                                         

                                                        Or is HA/etc. referring to private transactions between an owner and traveler? They really should clarify their statement.

                                                         

                                                        I accept CC payments, but only after I've received - as I've said before - a completed rental application, ID verification and have spoken with the traveler on the phone.

                                                         

                                                        I've shopped online for many years and only use sites that display this icon. By displaying the icon the company/processing firm accepts all responsibility for the security of the site. ( yes, I'm one of those who actually reads the terms of agreement ).

                                                         

                                                        I can't imagine having to call an airline, or retailer to verify that their information is correct.

                                                         

                                                        debj