A few suggestions to all about preventing scams. If you receive an e-mail with some of these warning signs, raise a flag, no one flag means a scam, but you should investigate further and be cautious.
- E-mail is sent from universal accounts (gmail, yahoo, hotmail, etc) and not private accounts (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Eager to send payment on first e-mail
- Does not provide phone number or the phone is incorrect, missing a digit.
- Does not provide much details about the reservation (number of people, exact dates)
- Dates are vague (end of month, in October, etc)
- Look to reserve for a long time in a location where most rentals are short (reserve for the month rather than a week).
- Refers to your place in generic terms ("your room/apartment")
- Your response comes back with more vague information, i.e. they don't provide you their phone number or more information requested by you.
- Many misspells (I don't expect all guests to write correctly).
- Their form of payment does not correspond to the usual and customary for the country they are from (Paypal is very common in Canada and Europe, credit cards in the USA, ACH or wire in the USA, etc).
- Their IP address does not correspond to the city where they are reserving from (Compare IP vs. Area codes)
- Their communication is too formal ("Kindly request")
- Their e-mail address has no prior history (No facebook, linkedin, blogs, etc)
- Inquiry did not come through the Homeaway or VRBO mailing system but contacted you directly after seeing the ad in these pages (HA & VRBO have a filter for known scammers).
May guests do not provide their phone number the first time around, use gmail, and send multiple requests, so I use these as just a caution flag and investigate further.
These are HIGH RISK FLAGS, ANY ONE OF THESE IS A REASON TO REJECT ANY RESERVATION
- IP address correspond to a high risk country (Ukraine, Africa, Russia)
- Their mailing address is from Ukraine
- Proposes payment by check, money order and not credit card, Paypal or bank transfers.
- They offer to overpay and request a refund after the payment clears.
- They are acting on behalf of someone else ("I would like to reserve for my guests ...")
- Their e-mail address is listed as a scammer by another blogger.
- Accept the price and all conditions even without looking at any contracts (The place am located and the price is not the problem, i am satisfy with the condition of the item and will add extra $500 for you to know am serious)
- After sending payment, pressure you to refund the difference via Western Union. Beware of Paypal phishing fraud.
- Person currently traveling and cannot provide you with phone number.
Here are a few things you should do if you have any doubts:
- Do an Area Code search, http://www.allareacodes.com/reverse-phone-lookup/ to see if phone corresponds to city where they claim to be from. If the provider is Y Max communications means Magic Jack, and Broadwing and CTC Communication is Vonage, neither one is located where they say they are and can be transferred overseas. So can Skype and Google Voice.
- Do an IP Lookup and see where the e-mail is coming from. Be aware that Gmail does not provide origin of e-mail (Always Palo Alto, CA), yahoo and Hotmail can be traced.http://www.ipmarker.com/trace-email/index.php
- Copy/paste the e-mail address in Google to search existence and history of the e-mail. 800 million people have facebook, 100 million have Linkedin, most people have left traces in blogs. See if their e-mail is on any blacklist.
I know it is cumbersome, and I do it when I have doubts, that is why I have my own renting policy.
Finally, define your clear renting policies, and if the guest does not comply, do not go through. Would you require any of the following before renting?
- Do you require a phone conversation with the guest (Difficult if they speak another language) before sending the contract?
- Do you require a signed contract?
- Do you require a copy of their ID?
- Street Address of their home?
- Require credit card for security deposit?
- Do you accept checks, or money orders?
- Do you accept bank wires, credit cards, etc
- When is full payment due? 30 days before, the night before?
- Do you issue refunds for overpayment?
- Any other requirement you see fit.
Most inquiries are honest and both owner and guest have an excellent experience, but we must strive to maintain the industry clean and reduce the fraud.