11 Replies Latest reply: Apr 17, 2019 12:14 PM by wildiris RSS

    Please help, is this a scam?

    sandpebblememories New Member

      I am brand new to VRBO, just got our listing set up this past week.

       

      I got a recent booking request through the VRBO site (actual booking, not an inquiry). The name on the request was foreign and while the message text sounded like English wasn't their first language, there weren't really any red flags (ie asking to pay by check, asking for dates that were available, misspelling, etc.).

       

      Message text: "Hi hope to see you for our first family vacation in a long time. It would be my husband and daughter. And our three adult cousins."

       

      When I searched for this person by name (very distinctive name), I get back 1 result. This person currently lives in Queens, New York and is from Rio Claro, Trinidad and Tobago.

       

      After accepting the booking, I was able to search on the phone and email address. They are a new traveler, account created in 2019, with no reviews of other properties or by owners. Searching on the email (which has a 19 in it, making me think it was also just created), returns nothing. Searching on the phone number, I get a result from a different name also in New York.

       

      I accepted the booking request, and the first payment was paid, but it is from another completely different foreign name. The name is again very distinctive and returns only 1 search result on Facebook. My vacation rental is in the Myrtle Beach, SC area. This person lists Auckland, New Zealand as their hometown - obviously they may now live in the US. They have their Facebook profile locked down pretty tightly, but as far as I can tell they are not friends with the FB profile of the person in the booking request (although their privacy settings my be what's causing them not to show up in the first person's friend list).

       

      After searching this forum, I found lots of posts about scams where people were asking to pay by check and that kind of thing, but in this case, they did already pay the first payment (50%) by credit card through VRBO. I will be sending the rental agreement to them shortly. It just gives me a weird feeling that there are different names and very little data that doesn't seem to match up.

       

      What do I need to do to make sure this is all legit and I'm not getting scammed? Any help is appreciated!

        • Re: Please help, is this a scam?
          wildiris Active Contributor

          First, make sure that there's a clause in your rental agreement that only people whose names are included in the rental agreement may stay at your property - then get the names of all of the individuals (including children) who will be staying at your vacation rental and include them in the rental agreement.  You should also have a provision that all payments must be made by a member of the rental party and that anyone making a payment must provide you with a photo ID.  It's possible that the credit card being used belongs to one of the cousins and that everything is on the up-and-up.  Unfortunately, there could also be a problem.

           

          I wouldn't worry too much about the Facebook situation.  More and more people (including myself) don't use Facebook much (or at all) and have very little information on it or "friends" because of all the privacy and security problems with Facebook.

            • Re: Please help, is this a scam?
              sandpebblememories New Member

              Thank you! We ask for the names of everyone including children plus children's ages. Only people whose names are on the signed contract are allowed to be there. We also ask for the ID of the person signing the rental agreement and the person paying, if it's someone different. Hopefully that is enough to protect us, it just seemed weird and I wasn't sure if there was more we could do to make sure this was a legitimate booking.

                • Re: Please help, is this a scam?
                  wildiris Active Contributor

                  It sounds like you're covered, although some Community members may have some other suggestions.  I'm assuming that this reservation request just came in.  How do you communicate with guests to obtain the information for your rental agreement?  Do you call or email them?  (Personally, I'm a big believer in calling the guest and talking with them to obtain the information.)  Please let us know what happens and if the credit card belongs to a member of the rental party.

                    • Re: Please help, is this a scam?
                      sandpebblememories New Member

                      We're still trying to figure all this out. For the most part we communicate via email. Prior to getting set up on VRBO, we were getting our reservations through word of mouth, posting in area Facebook groups, etc. Vrbo gets us in front of more people obviously, but definitely opens it up to people that we don't have the connections with that we had before (mutual friends, etc.). We might need to really sit down and figure out some changes to our process based on this difference.

                        • Re: Please help, is this a scam?
                          feibus CommunityAmbassador

                          That's an understatement.

                           

                          A clearly communicated structured process is going to simplify your reservation management work dramatically and puts all the pieces in place to defend from chargebacks.  Took us about 3 months to create the first iteration of our process and then HA's platform changes forced us to revisit our process and simplify in some places while beefing up in others.  So create a process, then be ready to change it when you figure out better ways to do things.

                            • Re: Please help, is this a scam?
                              sandpebblememories New Member

                              Thank you! Are there resources somewhere that guide you as an owner on the best practices and process for renting with VRBO? For example, VRBO help tells me how to upload my rental agreement, but I haven't been able to find anything about whether or not I SHOULD do that, as an example. What are the benefits of sending my rental agreement through VRBO vs sending it directly? Or maybe there aren't any and most people prefer to send it outside of VRBO. Has anyone set up a guide like that, from the owner's point of view about why you should or should not do some of this stuff?

                                • Re: Please help, is this a scam?
                                  feibus CommunityAmbassador

                                  Yes, you should upload a sample of your rental agreement.  That goes out with to the guest with the booking and they can view it before they book.

                                   

                                  Sending the agreement  through VRBO (or ABB for that matter) does nothing legal for you.  Using an e-signing service that complies with Federal e-signing laws (which includes rules for acquiring the signatures as well as document retention) is the only legal way to get a contract electronically signed.  Otherwise, go with print/fax or print/scan/email (both of which take longer than e-signing for a not-surprisingly significant number of guests).

                                   

                                  I'm not aware of any guide, but a LOT of threads out here have owners who talk about the steps involved in their reservation process, so do some searches for posts in the past couple of years to see what people are doing.

                                  • Re: Please help, is this a scam?
                                    wildiris Active Contributor

                                    Each owner has his or her own preferred ways of doing business.  I handle my rentals differently than feibus handles his.  One way is not better or worse than the other - just different.  Uploading your rental agreement to the HomeAway website most likely does no harm, but I don't think it does a lot of good, either.  I used to upload a PDF sample rental agreement (with "SAMPLE" water marks on each page).  I discontinued this practice when I realized that guests couldn't view my sample rental agreement until after they have submitted a Request to Book.  To my mind, that's too late.  I think prospective guests should be able to view my sample rental agreement before they submit a Request to Book.  I frequently make changes to the language of my rental agreement based on things that I learn from posts in this Community (thank you fellow Community members!), changes in the way HomeAway does business and the options that it offers owners, and from my own experience with guests.  It became a pain to make sure that I had deleted my out-of-date uploaded sample rental agreement and had the current version uploaded on the HomeAway website.  I am concerned about possible discrepancies between an uploaded sample rental agreement and the current version that I present to guests for their signature.  That's why I no longer upload a sample rental agreement.  If you do upload one, make sure it's always the current version that you are using.

                                     

                                    Once I accept a Request to Book I switch ALL communications with the guest to my personal email account and I explain to each guest that they should communicate with me via my email address and not the HomeAway platform.  I talk to the guest on the phone and then prepare the rental agreement for the guest.  I send a PDF version of the agreement as an email attachment and tell guests that their reservation is not confirmed until they return the signed rental agreement to me.  I give them 48 hours to do so.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with using a docusign e-service if you prefer it.  There are two reasons I send a PDF version that the guest has to print out and sign instead of using an e-service.  First, I think people are more likely to actually read a hard-copy of my rental agreement that they have to print out, initial, and sign than they are to thoroughly read an e-copy.  (I have no statistics to back this up - it's just a gut feeling I have.)  I want my guests to thoroughly read and understand my rental agreement before signing.  After printing and signing the guest scans the signed rental agreement and emails it back to me.  I then print out the rental agreement that the guest has signed, initial and sign it myself, scan it and return an executed copy of the rental agreement to the guest via an email attachment.  The second (and to me less important) reason that I don't use an e-sign service is that I have one rental and don't have that many bookings per year to defray the cost of an e-sign service.  The print and scan method costs me nothing and works well for me.

                                     

                                    It is important to note that owners CANNOT send a copy of their rental agreement through Vrbo FOR GUESTS TO SIGN.  HomeAway has not created the ability to do this on its website.  You will have to send your rental agreement to your guests to sign outside of the HomeAway/Vrbo system - either through an e-sign service that you purchase or via the email and scan system that I use.

                        • Re: Please help, is this a scam?
                          feibus CommunityAmbassador

                          Also make sure your rental agreement is signed by BOTH the person making the reservation and the person whose credit card was used.  You want their email and phone numbers as well.  AND have them initial your cancellation clause.

                           

                          I don't think it's a scam, but I do think you have to make sure you have your legalities done right for this reservation.

                          • Re: Please help, is this a scam?
                            myrtlebeachgirl Contributor

                            Great advice was given.  Most of the scams are by check.  Make sure their ID matches the info they gave you.  After you talk with them send an email with your discussion and hopefully it will go through.  Good Luck!