38 Replies Latest reply: Dec 4, 2019 9:44 AM by margaret RSS

    Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!

    calicalling Active Contributor

      My listing has been fraudulently duplicated **ON VRBO/HA**! I discovered this thanks to a guest who lost $1000 because of a bait-and-switch scheme from the listing.

       

      He contacted me for help and told me he contacted Support and was told that there had been multiple complaints about the listing but they have not taken it down. They also told him they would not help him because he paid the 'owner' off platform.

       

      I confirmed this myself by calling CS and they told me the same (I recorded the conversation so I have documentation that there have been multiple complaints)!

       

      I looked up the listing and, yes, its EXACTLY my listing ... same text, same pics, same everything...According to my recorded call with customer service:

       

      1. there's nothing they can do until a business day

       

      2. "it will be escalated and get the attention it deserves." ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

       

      3. there have been multiple complaints that the listing is fraudulent

       

      4. that this happens 'a lot' with high-volume listings

       

      5. that "there's nothing they can do" to stop people from duplicating and posting listings (seriously?)

       

       

      I demanded to speak to Trust and Security, a supervisor, or anyone who can take immediate action to remove the listing, but they say NO! Until a business day! Meanwhile, guests are being scammed out of thousands of dollars! I finally spoke to a supervisor and she said they will start an investigation (none of the other complaints were sent to T&S) but that it will take up to 48 hours for 'an investigation.' She finally hung up on me because I wouldn't hang up without having it handled.

       

       

      Seriously?

       

      Any advice on how to get this taken care of immediately, before more guests are scammed???

        • Re: Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!
          calicalling Active Contributor

          amanda_ha I heard you might be working today.

           

          Please reach out if there's anything you can do. I have documented the phone calls by recording, have a case number, and took screen snips of the fraudulent listing. I also have the names given to the guests by the fraudsters, tho I'm guessing the names and emails are not real, of course.

           

          Also, it is COMPLETELY unacceptable that guests complained about this and were blown off for 2 days by CS.

          • Re: Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!
            hmmmm Senior Contributor

            What HA/VRBO/Expedia's CS, Supervisors etc do not realize, is that their reputation depends on the fact that all listings are verified.
            The fact that is was so easily duplicated, confirms the fact that there is not a check and balance in place.


            Word travels fast that fraud happens on this site...HA clean it up now.


            And if your listing is duplicated with no consequences, or action taken, that would tell me they are doing more than just yours.

             

            **** Careful HA, you will start to look like Craigslist.  Don't allow an wonderful platform with a good reputation among vacationers start to travel down that road.

              • Re: Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!
                calicalling Active Contributor

                I recorded the call with the CS supervisor. She told me it happens 'all the time' and that 'there's nothing they can do to stop it.' I countered that if they can identify listings with owner contact info in them, they can certainly identify completely COPIED and pasted/duplicated listings with nearly identical text (they took out my first name), and identical photos.

                 

                For what its worth, though, the scammer has a valid phone number on his listing, which he probably used for verification. Not a super-robust system, if you can use a google voice number to verify a fully duplicated listing.

                 

                Reputation is everything -- which is why I was so shocked at the non-response from CS.

                 

                If VRBO/HA continues to allow guests to be scammed ON THEIR SITE, then we all really are the Craigslist of Vacation Rentals.

                  • Re: Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!
                    margaret CommunityAmbassador

                    Once again Vrbo is refusing to acknowledge that owners protecting their business also protects the brand! Owners are not the enemy, we are the backbone of this business, without listed properties/inventory there is no Vrbo! ABB is getting some very bad press lately, along with being bashed on social media. This is the point in time when Vrbo should be seizing the opportunity to promote their brand as the safer alternative. If this kind of information get press or social media traction that opportunity would be lost. To not take immediate action to address this situation is a serious failing. Pay attention Vrbo, opportunity is knocking, open the door!!

                    • Re: Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!
                      hmmmm Senior Contributor

                      What the heck did she mean, " it happens all the time"  NO NO NO.......

                      It happens all the time to a free careless listing site like Craigslist but this cannot be the attitude that Homeaway is taking.


                      No, this is not good not at all

                  • Re: Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!
                    feibus Senior Contributor

                    Weekend CS is basically impotent.  Get the call ticket number, ask to escalate, wait until a weekday when the security teams are back at work and can take action.  CS has no power in this fight and no one who has the power is going to be working.

                    • Re: Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!
                      ambidextrous Active Contributor

                      Cali -- how did the scammed guest figure out how to contact you? I would imagine that listings are copied without the actual owner ever knowing about it.

                        • Re: Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!
                          calicalling Active Contributor

                          Ambi, I've had a ton of guests contact me over the last 2 days via text, phone and VRBO/HA message.

                           

                          Some of them have case numbers from Friday and documentation that they complained last week that this listing is fraudulent. And yes, as you suggest, although VRBO/HA has been aware of it for a few days, I was not aware of it until a guest told me late last night.

                           

                          The timing of the listing seems very intentional... They posted on a holiday weekend, probably because VRBO/HA is down-staffed and because many guests in my market plan their winter holiday during or after Thanksgiving. They also listed on HA, although my listings are on VRBO. I often search VRBO for my listings, but I never search HA.

                           

                          I'm a PP, so guests may be finding my contact info on VRBO/HA. Several of them told me that they googled me. I have a google my biz listing, website, etc. so I'm fairly easy to find/verify.

                           

                          One of the guests was scammed and lost $1000. Another's daughter was being pressured to pay a $3800 direct payment to 'lock in' her booking.

                           

                          At least one of them is planning legal action, and I don't blame him. Its clear that VRBO/HA was made aware of the issue and that they chose not to do anything about it for at least 48 hours, til more people were scammed.

                            • Re: Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!
                              wildiris Active Contributor

                              Did the guests who found the fraudulent listing on Vrbo book and pay through Vrbo?  If they did, they should be able to issue a chargeback on their credit card and/or avail themselves of Vrbo's "Book with Confidence" guarantee.

                                • Re: Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!
                                  calicalling Active Contributor

                                  Yes, that was my exact response to guests when they started contacting me. But that was also part of the scam.

                                   

                                  The scammer posted a huge listing of mine.... My most lucrative, a 2 condo combination which sleeps up to 20. He reduced the price to make it super competitive (about 2/3) but not ridiculously low. But at that price, he got a lot of interest from smaller groups, like 10-12 people.

                                   

                                  As part of the scam, he would tell these smaller groups that he could save them a lot of money by renting them half of the property (one condo), but that he did not have a VRBO/HA listing for it. Instead, he would hold the dates for them with a deposit (or in some cases he demanded full payment up front). I heard this 'bait and switch' story over and over from guests this weekend. Of course, he had them pay using an alternate method.

                                   

                                  I only know the stories of guests who reached out to me, but this was consistently the story that they told me.  The calendar shows a ton of bookings on high value dates. I really hope those bookings came through VRBO/HA and so are protected. ;-(  Or that they are not really bookings, but maybe part of his sham to make the property look legit. IDK.

                                    • Re: Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!
                                      wildiris Active Contributor

                                      The scammer most likely was able to communicate his phone number or email in an "alternate format" when he responded to the inquiries.  My guess is that none of the bookings on his calendar were made through Vrbo, although it's possible.  Presumably, the scammer had to provide a legitimate bank account number to Vrbo/Yapstone when he established the listing, but he wouldn't want any payments going through that system. 

                                       

                                      It's interesting that the victims contacted you.  I guess they were hoping that the "scam" was just some sort of mix-up.  Did any of the victims mention to you whether or not they also contacted Vrbo?  I wonder what sort of "help" they received from Vrbo if they did.

                                        • Re: Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!
                                          calicalling Active Contributor

                                          According to my recorded phone call with CS (and my conversations with scammed guests), VRBO/HA was notified on Friday & Saturday (and case numbers assigned) that the listing was fraudulent. I was not notified or contacted by VRBO/HA and the listing was allowed to stay active on HA until Sunday when I became aware and engaged (aggressively) with CS.

                                           

                                          There were at least 2 case numbers about the listing when I got my case number on Sunday.

                                           

                                          I'm sure that not all the scammed guests contacted me. The first guest to get scammed and contact VRBO/HA did not contact me--I only learned about that person when CS admitted to me that there were prior reports of fraud. I'm not sure how many people were actually defrauded ... Some contacted me because they were about to pay the scammer but decided to google me and my properties first, thank goodness. Others contacted me because they got scammed but afterward decided that something wasn't right, googled me (or found me through my legit listings). And yes, I think those guests were hopeful that maybe they had booked with 'the owner' and I was just a manager (which is what the scammer was apparently telling people ... even though I am the 'owner' and 'manager.'

                                           

                                          One of the guests has downloaded the now-hidden listing, captured screenshots, and has documented that VRBO/HA knew the listing was fraudulent but allowed it to stay active, resulting in him being scammed. If anyone with any power to make things right for these guests reads this, I hope you will consider making sure these guests are made whole, or I'm afraid this whole thing is going to turn into a lawsuit from guests who know VRBO/HA allowed this listing to stay up after they had been alerted that it was fraud.

                                • Re: Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!
                                  kmcbhense Contributor

                                  I had it happen to me on one of our homes about a year ago. We had the property on vrbo since 2009. When I called it to CS about the fraudulent one, they demanded that I show proof thru a copy of my warranty deed that I was the legal owner and not the fraudulent one. I scanned and emailed, and they still did nothing. Said it was being escalated. But no one ever helped. The fraudulent one was still active as well. I finally found a way online to contact John Kim directly, and he had it removed in 10 minutes, and actually called me and apologized.

                                  • Re: Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!
                                    calicalling Active Contributor

                                    I don't know how they got his contact info, but every single person who has called or texted gave me the same phone #, same name(s), same everything. As of this morning, the person was still taking 'reservations' with required payment up front. His calendar showed many weekend bookings for the next 3 months. ;-( 

                                    • Re: Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!
                                      linky17 Active Contributor

                                      Your post is disturbing.  Thank you for sharing.  (BTW ~ Is it you who marked this thread as "Presumed Answered?"  IMO>  We're far from an answer.))

                                       

                                      My head is spinning with this newest Vrbo/HA ... Epic Fail?  Glitch?  And for so many reasons.

                                       

                                      I'll isolate two:

                                       

                                      1)  Did Vrbo/HA actually accept a $499.00 'subscription' payment from an Imposter so to enable + to up-load the [duplicate] listing?

                                       

                                      2)  How the Heck can an Imposter even go 'there?'  *Let alone 'off-line?'  *To accept payments.

                                      • Re: Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!
                                        wildiris Active Contributor

                                        Here's what the Vrbo website says about "Safety" -

                                         

                                        "Vrbo offers a range of tools and resources that protect the privacy and safety of travelers and owners. We support owners by educating them about best practices for creating safe and private spaces for travelers, and we use technology to verify the identities of owners and travelers whenever possible. We advise our community to follow state and local laws that may apply."

                                        Hmmm ... I wonder what Vrbo considers "best practices" for Vrbo "to verify the identities of owners and travelers whenever possible."  It certainly isn't whatever  "technology" they are using.  We know that they don't verify the identities of travelers.  I don't recall them ever verifying that I really own the property I have listed with them.  They certainly didn't verify that the scammer owned calicalling's property.

                                        Seems like they are trying to lull both owners and travelers into a false sense of security.

                                        • Re: Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!
                                          calicalling Active Contributor

                                          hmmmm, I don't know what she meant (other than the obvious) but I do have a recording of her saying it.

                                           

                                          I completely agree that 'it happens all the time" and "there's no way we can stop it" isn't a good corporate posture that supports Trust & Security.

                                           

                                          One of the guests heard from T & S this morning. They told him they are not responsible for what happened to him. He pointed out that they knew in advance about the fraud and did nothing. They told him they would refer him to Resolutions Dept. but not to expect any reimbursement.

                                           

                                          I agree, that if VRBO/HA was unaware of the fraud, and guests took it upon themselves to book off-platform VRBO/HA is not responsible. But they *did* know for at least a day and did nothing. I have that on recording, and the same info was communicated to the guest as well.

                                          • Re: Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!
                                            calicalling Active Contributor

                                            Update:

                                             

                                            My account manager has reached out to me several times. She has been responsive, reassuring and as helpful as she can be within her role.

                                             

                                            I also received a call from Angela in Trust & Security. I honestly cannot think of a time when I was treated in such an unprofessional way and with the level of disrespect and derision that Angela directed at me. samantha_ha, I hope that someone recorded that call and can review it. It was appalling.

                                             

                                            I'm 100% recognizing that I am not seen as a Partner, more of a combatant.

                                             

                                            Short version: T & S boils down to guests being "educated" and responsible to not pay offline.

                                             

                                            They do not review new listings for duplicative content, but they'll send some feedback that I think its a good idea.

                                            • Re: Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!
                                              ohst8er Premier Contributor

                                              This type of situation should never be acceptable.  I’m not sure what’s worse, knowing that VRBO‘s verification process for vetting new owners is that easy to bypass, or, the fact that, when it is bypassed VRBO doesn’t IMMEDIATELY shut down both sides until one can prove that they are the legitimate owner, or the fact that the customer service rep didn’t know immediately what to do in this situation.  This should’ve been an urgent matter.  not just to protect the owner, but also to protect the travelers who are being scammed.  As someone who lists exclusively on VRBO, knowing that my one and only listing Could be subject to being spammed and scammed and I would have almost no recourse, and the platform that has made thousands upon thousands of dollars off of me would have no urgency in helping me, is very unsettling.  I know that people from corporate office do you read this community  forum because from time to time over the years they have come on and responded. I really think we need a response in this case.

                                                • Re: Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!
                                                  calicalling Active Contributor

                                                  You are the perfect person to comment, ohst8er, because you are exclusive to VRBO. (I once was, but they hid my listings for a test and I learned the hard way that I cannot trust any one single basket to hold my eggs.)

                                                   

                                                  One of the things I agree with Angela about is that because I'm not exclusive, my listings could have been copied from anywhere. And that is absolutely true.

                                                   

                                                  *BUT* VRBO/HA should have some mechanism in place to vet new listings for duplicative content *from and on their own site,* If a lucrative listing is re-published, they should have some way to identify that. Surely, if they can find a phone number in a listing, they can find an ENTIRE duplicate listing. There were over 40 lines of unique text on that listing. How hard is that to identify? I used to teach middle school and used a second rate, free plagiarism program to find a few words of text, much less 40 lines.

                                                   

                                                  The greatest uproar I'm hearing on social media about this is that VRBO/HA allowed this fraud under their own noses, on their own platform. And then did not respond when warned. I totally agree.

                                                    • Re: Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!
                                                      lindata Active Contributor

                                                      How did you know they hid your listing for a test?  I have called a few times and they "say" I have views, but nonexistent inquiries.  Ugh.

                                                        • Re: Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!
                                                          green_mango Active Contributor

                                                          VRBO hid my listing also - I just happened to enter my listing number to find it quickly and 'no matches' - this was back when I was on the HA Customer Advisory Board and I was able to get the info that there was an A/B test and my listing was hidden.  Then there was also a glitch so it stayed hidden.  I hadn't had inquiries in awhile and it was ski season, so I was trying to figure out what was going on - turns out a big mess. 

                                                           

                                                          lindata if you're not sure yours is coming up trying searching by listing number, and also do a variety of organic searches with and without dates and just make sure all the filters are working as intended.

                                                          • Re: Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!
                                                            calicalling Active Contributor

                                                            It has been a long time so my memory isnt perfect... There was a lengthy discussion on the Community if you want to look it up. It was the same test that affected green_mango . As I remember it, a guest contacted me through one of my other listings and told me they could not find my largest listing. I cleared cookies/cache and searched ...Used an incognito window and searched ... 2 of the largest, lucrative listings were hidden on most browsers.

                                                             

                                                            I wss initially told by CS that my cancelation rate was the reason, but @green_mango.got the real story through her better sources

                                                             

                                                            You are smart to keep an eye on inquiries. Even before I heard about the fraud on of my listing t this  week, my spider senses were already tingling... its weird for me to have 0 inquiries on a holiday weekend. I usually get a lot of ispring ski nquiries over Thanksgiving and I was getting them on Air. But crickets from VRBO.

                                                        • Re: Listing Fraud *ON VRBO/HA* but CS won't help. Please advise!
                                                          margaret CommunityAmbassador

                                                          I am also hoping one of the mods will address this and perhaps pass on the concerns we have about this situation. Years ago we were allowed to watermark photos. I've never understood why that was changed. The fact that this was reported by multiple people and no action was taken is very disconcerting.