How to protect yourself from vacation rental issues

Home renters are no strangers to scams. Vice reported last week how hosts can assume fake identities and scam consumers on Airbnb with a network of fake profiles. The FBI is looking into the article’s claims.

Though some protection will come from the vacation rental platforms themselves, including fraud and risk detection, there are basic steps you can take to make sure you don’t buy into what a scammer might be selling.

Red flags

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. “If you notice a huge percentage of reviews being positive, that is a picture perfect description that is not real,” Saoud Khalifah, CEO of Fakespot, an artificial intelligence platform that looks to help people weed out fake reviews and counterfeit products, told USA TODAY.

And positive reviews are aplenty: “Unfortunately for a lot of these platforms, because of the personal nature of the interaction, the reviews themselves tend to be skewed very positively,” Chris K. Anderson, a service operations management professor at Cornell University, told USA TODAY. Airbnb users have the option to post public and private reviews.

Click on some of the reviewers’ profiles to ensure that they look like real people – and that the listing has plenty of reviewers in the first place. 

Home renters have to be on the lookout for scams.

Pay attention to photo hiccups. “If photos are low quality, it’s a red flag as it might mean they were taken from another site,” Bryan Fedner, co-founder of vacation rental company StayMarquis, told USA TODAY.

Artist-rendered photos and generic-looking apartments could be warning signs, according to Yanni Poulakos, a travel expert for corporate travel management site

If a listing mentions three baths, and there are pictures of only one, renters should proceed with caution, Anderson said.

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