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      • 15. Re: Your Input Needed! you must log-in to your dashboard to respond to inquiries
        anja Senior Contributor

        Discussion:  HA's new security / inquiry system.

         

        HA has invited Community Forum Ambassadors to a follow up webinar-teleconference, tomorrow, Tuesday June 19th.   Only a  few {I think it was six} C.Ambassadors were able to participate in the first part of the discussion, last week.

         

        How many can be on the call tomorrow?

        • 17. Re: Your Input Needed! you must log-in to your dashboard to respond to inquiries
          swiss-house Contributor

          db - I don't know the specifics behind the example you give of the traveler scammed of the $1200, but it most likely wasn't that a scammer broke into the owner's HA account.  Breaking into appliations is too difficult to automate.  The most common way scammers take advantage of us is that they hack your email account because there are tons of tools to do it with.

           

          How do they get your email account?  They send you an inquiry of course!  You reply from your own email account and now they know it.  A couple weeks later they "phish" your email account info through totally unrelated spam to your email account.  If they try enough times, they eventually get someone to fall for their trick and they get that homeowner's email login info. 

           

          From there, they start watching the homeowner's email traffic for new inquiries.  When one comes in, they forward it to their OWN email account and delete it from the real homeowner's email account, so the real homeowner doesn't even know it arrived.  Heck, once they get into the real homeowner's email account (if it's a Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, etc) they can even set up a filter with the mail system's settings to do this all for them automatically.

           

          Once they've forwarded the inquiry to their own email account, they can carry on just like they're the real owner - answering questions (with fake answers of course), and most importantly, soliciting payment.  Check, credit card, whatever, it doesn't matter. As long as they don't try to do it through the HomeAway payment system (since they don't have the HA owner's logon info), the money goes straight into their pocket.

          By the time the renter shows up to an already occupied house and finds they were dealing with a scammer, their money is long gone.  And the real homeowner is completely unaware of all this going on because they never get any of the emails once the original is snagged.

           

          So who's fault is this?  The real homeowner's?  With the exception of letting themselves get fooled with the phishing attempt that stole their email info, they've been totally in the dark on this.  How about HomeAway?  No - there's no place along the way that HA could have stopped this once all the communication starts taking place on regular emails? 

           

          With the system the way it is right now, there is no way to warn a renter that their email correspondence might have been hijacked. The only thing you can really do is tell potential renters that there must be a touch point through SOMETHING that is published in the listing - your listed phone number, or if you could (which would be a dumb idea for other reasons) your own email address.  Unless there is a contact point through something trustworthy, you just can't be sure.

           

          I'm guessing that is why HA has the pop up suggesting renters contact the owner via their listed phone number - it's proof that they are dealing with the real lister of the property.  Having the "owner" call the renter is useless since a scammer who has stolen an email inquiry can always say the number they are calling from is different than the one on the web page since they are calling form their cell phone, etc.)

           

          As I understand it, HA is trying to set up what is effectively a parallel email system just for us homeowners.  One they can add extra security, stronger than most email accounts, so it is unlikely to get hacked.  I don't know much about how it will work, but I will be on the Ambassador call tomorrow to learn more.  Hopefully it will include all the kinds of things we take for granted with existing email systems: Threading, text formating, searching, archiving.  

          If I were doing the designing, I'd also create it with an email gateway similar to CraigsList's, with email address obfuscators so that the renters would not necessarily have to create HomeAway profiles and could still communicate with their regular email account, but still have our homeowners real email addresses hidden.  There are a hundred other little things that I'd try to incorporate - mostly to address the concerns voiced in this thread (as well as about 10 others going on here under different titles).

           

          I don't know if HomeAway make it mandatory.  I don't know how much can be easily run in parallel with our old methods. 

           

          But I do understand why they're making the investment in the new system.  Our industry will get screwed over by the press and eventually even local and state legislators if we don't self-police and find ways to protect renters from scammers. The bad guys don't care who's lives they destroy to make their filthy bucks - but it's our livelyhood at stake here, and if we have to make some (uncomfortable) changes to protect it, that's just what we'll have to do.

          • 18. Re: Your Input Needed! you must log-in to your dashboard to respond to inquiries
            swiss-house Contributor

            Barring a tree falling on me or getting run over by a tractor (I'm doing some landscaping of our rental property), I'll be on the call too.

             

            As to the one (or two, or three...) owner's comments here about why HA hasn't published more about this to all the owners, it's because they're doing what every other software development company does - running it by a focus group first. That focus group is the Ambassador group.  It's not my place to describe all that goes into the Ambassador program - but it's designed to be representative of the owners overall.  Not just the big owners, not just the cheerleader owners, not just the most outspoken owners, but a mix of everyone - techies and luddites.  Appointed representatives of a sort I guess.

             

            News of this probably should have been kept under wraps a bit more until HomeAway fleshed it out a bit more, and I personally am pretty p*ssed about the way it was even introduced to the Ambassadors last week.  Let me say that again for anyone listening - it was TOTALLY uncool and disrespectful the way it was introduced.

             

            But I'll stick with it and speak up and try to represent the "pragmatic" homeowner as best I can through this process.  Egos always get bruised in this kind of process - I hope HomeAway's leadership is willing to take it as well as they dish it out.

            • 21. Re: Your Input Needed! you must log-in to your dashboard to respond to inquiries
              swlinphx Premier Contributor

              As to the one (or two, or three...) owner's comments here about why HA hasn't published more about this to all the owners, it's because they're doing what every other software development company does - running it by a focus group first. That focus group is the Ambassador group.  It's not my place to describe all that goes into the Ambassador program - but it's designed to be representative of the owners overall.  Not just the big owners, not just the cheerleader owners, not just the most outspoken owners, but a mix of everyone - techies and luddites.  Appointed representatives of a sort I guess.

               

              On a side note, don't get me started on the Ambassador program.  There is absolutely no concrete system for how people get invited to be "Ambassadors" other than the whim or preferential treatment of the invitee (like a teacher's pet system).  Anyone notice that every other user who posts to this board regularly is now an "Ambassador", even with barely 100 posts or points.  It seems to lose any significance or special meaning that way. Almost everyone with over 200 posts is an Ambassador now too.  I'd have more respect if it were earned by a straight points, posts and/or contributory system, one that is fair across the board for all and didn't play favorites.

               

              However, I who have over 350 posts, 330 points and rank in the Top 12 of the thousands of HomeAway community members, and who has spent a lot of time contributing, answering questions, offering input and starting new threads, was never once invited.  I might not even accept or want to be one now that half the people are, but to deliberately bypass someone when everyone else in the Top 20 or so is either a HomeAway Employee or Ambassador is suspect at best. I am very suspicious of the Ambassador program and their methods of selecting users.  If ranking, points, posts, contribution and other hard statistics don't matter, then what is their secret criteria?  It's almost as if it's run like some exclusive country club or even a fraternity who selects pledges.  Were any of you hazed??  LOL

               

              Here is a link to member rating if you haven't seen it before:

               

              http://community.homeaway.com/people?sort=statusLevel&showDisabledUsers=false&showExternalUsers=false&resultTypes=COMMUNITY&view=&start=0&prefix=&tag=&query=&onlineOnly=false&recentlyAddedOnly=false&searchFilters%5B0%5D.fieldID=2&searchFilters%5B0%5D.minValue=&searchFilters%5B0%5D.maxValue=&searchFilters%5B1%5D.fieldID=5021&searchFilters%5B1%5D.value=&searchFilters%5B2%5D.fieldID=5028&searchFilters%5B2%5D.minValue=&searchFilters%5B2%5D.maxValue=&searchFilters%5B3%5D.fieldID=5029&searchFilters%5B3%5D.value=&searchFilters%5B4%5D.fieldID=5009&searchFilters%5B4%5D.value=&searchFilters%5B5%5D.fieldID=5031&searchFilters%5B5%5D.value=&searchFilters%5B6%5D.fieldID=5032&searchFilters%5B6%5D.value=&searchFilters%5B7%5D.fieldID=5033&searchFilters%5B7%5D.value=&searchFilters%5B8%5D.fieldID=5035&searchFilters%5B8%5D.minValue=&searchFilters%5B8%5D.maxValue=&searchFilters%5B9%5D.fieldID=5036&searchFilters%5B9%5D.minValue=&searchFilters%5B9%5D.maxValue=&searchFilters%5B10%5D.fieldID=5004&searchFilters%5B10%5D.value=&searchFilters%5B11%5D.fieldID=5022&searchFilters%5B11%5D.value=&tagq=

              • 22. Re: Your Input Needed! you must log-in to your dashboard to respond to inquiries
                swlinphx Premier Contributor

                Dbmeyer, where did you first hear or learn about this change?  I'd love to know.

                • 23. Re: Your Input Needed! you must log-in to your dashboard to respond to inquiries
                  jeffbailey Contributor

                  HomeAway actually created a whole new group called Secure Communication to discuss the issue:

                  http://community.homeaway.com/groups/secure-communication

                   

                  So, they really are trying to solict feedback from the broader community, not just the Ambassador program.  It might be good to move this discussion to that group to help ensure the rights folks at HA see it and keep all the relevant feedback in one place.

                   

                  Jeff

                  • 24. Re: Your Input Needed! you must log-in to your dashboard to respond to inquiries
                    Contributor

                    To add insult to injury, I just read this on the link that Jeff Bailey sent in the previous email.  Nice to know that HA doesn't consider the owners for a "trusted relationship" to avoid using the Secure Communication lockdown system.  Talk about a communication nightmare we are going thru before this is even implemented (if at all).

                     

                    Q. I am a property manager; will I need to log in as well?

                     

                    A. We anticipate than many property managers will use the HomeAway Secure Communication system. Others will establish a trusted relationship with HomeAway so that they can directly receive inquiries via secure and trusted technical integration. We look forward to working with the property management community to design a solution that will work for their needs.

                     

                    read more faq's

                    http://community.homeaway.com/docs/DOC-2689

                    • 25. Re: Your Input Needed! you must log-in to your dashboard to respond to inquiries
                      lrbaldwin Active Contributor

                      Just as I expected.  If the property managers are in the end going to be the revenue source for VRBO, we owners will no longer be needed.  We can't compare in volume, and we very simply won't be worth the time vs the income.

                       

                      Linda 

                      • 26. Re: Your Input Needed! you must log-in to your dashboard to respond to inquiries
                        Contributor

                        I have not seen HA's revenue breakdown by owners compared to property management companies.  I'm assuming that owners are still a major source of revenues, and if we were all to jump ship to an alternate website, it would cause them much harm.  We are currently in a difficult position as HA/VRBO has a virtual monopoly and knows that.  Since there are competing websites, if would benefit us to provide our input to each other on several potential competitors that we as a group could take our business to.  If a large number of us moved to another website, it would increase the popularity of that site and thus our rental business with that site.  The publicity generated by such a move on owners' part would greatly assist us in that effort.  Please let me know what you think.

                         

                        I'd also like to request that tomorrow the Ambassadors discuss the reason why HA/VRBO can develop a "trusted relationship" for Property Managers that bypasses the secure communication system, and why that technology cannot also be extended to property owners.  Or, is the reason that the ultimate goal is indeed to force us to use the Payment system as part of Reservation Manager, and thereby increase HA's revenues?

                        • 27. Re: Your Input Needed! you must log-in to your dashboard to respond to inquiries
                          swlinphx Premier Contributor

                          Or, is the reason that the ultimate goal is indeed to force us to use the Payment system as part of Reservation Manager, and thereby increase HA's revenues?

                          How does HomeAway increase revenue by us using ReservationManager for payments?  They're not the ones who process the credit cards and who get the processing fees.

                          • 28. Re: Your Input Needed! you must log-in to your dashboard to respond to inquiries
                            Contributor

                            As processing fees are negotiable, as are all banking fees, I feel confident that HA is benefiting financially from their payment system.

                            • 29. Re: Your Input Needed! you must log-in to your dashboard to respond to inquiries
                              carol Premier Contributor

                              Assuming I capitulate and begin managing all my rentals, not just the ones originating in HA/VRBO, through RM, HA will get access to traveler info for travelers who rented our properties through other web sites.    This gives HA the ability to market directly to a wider group of travelers -- and a good group of travelers, ones who are known to actually follow through on renting.    This is very valuable marketing info , the kind that companies pay big bucks for. 

                               

                              It also gives HA specific information on the actual rates I charge and my occupancy levels.   Again, extremely valuable marketing information.  

                               

                              This is why I worry about sharing my traveler info with them.  

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