That vacation rental listing could be a scam. These are the warning signs to look out for

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  • Before you book that summer rental, make sure it’s not a scam.
  • One big warning sign a listing is fake: demanding immediate payment on another platform.
  • Other warning signs include fake images and a lack of reliable reviews.

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Before you book a rental property for summer vacation, you may want to double-check that you are not scammed.
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This week, New York State Attorney General Letitia James issued a warning For consumers seeking rental property.

“Summer plans could quickly melt away if consumers aren’t careful when booking their getaways,” James said in a statement. “Vacation fraud happens every year, but there are ways to avoid it and keep yourself from burning out.”

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Rental scams can happen at any time of year, but the good news is that there are ways to detect them before you take advantage of it, according to Michelle Couch-Friedman, executive director Elliot AdvocacyA non-profit consumer advocacy organization.

biggest warning sign

Couch-Friedman said the biggest red flag that a listing is a scam is when you are asked to leave a listing platform like Vrbo or Airbnb to provide payment.

A fake real estate owner would ask a consumer to send $500, for example, through an online payment platform such as Zelle. Couch-Friedman said those transfers are immediate and cannot be reversed.

“The best payment method for any type of vacation rental would be a credit card, because then you have [the] Protection of the Fair Credit Billing Act,” Couch-Friedman said. “If you’re scammed, your credit card company can get your money back.”

So, don’t forget to book the listing found on a famous website only on that website. “As long as you stay within the platform from start to finish, from payment to deposit, it is very difficult to get scammed,” Couch-Friedman said.

more red flags

Also keep an eye out for fake listings. Couch-Friedman said that these would often appear as new posts with no review. In his notice, James also warned consumers to pay attention to fake reviews, such as multiple reviews repeating similar phrases.

The listing may also contain grainy photos. You can find out if it’s available elsewhere by taking screen shots of the pictures and searching Google Images. Couch-Friedman said that if the image appears for another listing in another location, or in an unrelated context, such as a furniture ad, it is a scam.

It’s also a good idea to message the owner before you commit. Note, this correspondence should only take place on the listing site, according to James. According to Couch-Friedman, a scammer may not get back to you immediately or respond in proper English.

Also make sure the host or owner has a valid address and phone number, James recommends.

The good news is that if you read the terms and conditions of the listing site you’re using, and you stay on that platform, you can significantly reduce your chances of being taken.

If you run into legal issues with potential plans, it’s best to contact your state’s attorney general, Couch-Friedman said.

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