With the summer vacation season just around the corner, New York Attorney General Letitia James is warning of possible rental scams.
“As millions of New Yorkers plan their getaway trips and look to rent homes, they should be mindful of scammers that misrepresent rentals or list fake homes online that do not actually exist, tricking consumers into paying and leaving them with nowhere to stay,” James’ office said in a statement.
She offered several tips for would-be vacationers to avoid falling victim to fraud, including:
- Verify the host. Make sure the renter or host has a valid address and phone number.
- Make sure the listing has reviews and read the reviews. Be wary of listings on websites like Airbnb or VRBO that do not have any reviews listed. When reading reviews, check for multiple reviews that repeat the same phrases — that could be a sign that the reviews are fake.
- Check that the photos have not been stolen from another website. Use reverse image search of photos of the rental to ensure that the photos have not been listed on another website.
- Communicate only through the listing site before booking. One way that scammers try to trick consumers is by first posting a listing on a site like Airbnb or VRBO, and then requiring you to communicate directly with the host outside the website or app to book the listing. Do not share your email address or phone number with the host or renter before your booking is accepted.
- Only book with a credit card or debit card. Use verified payment sources such as a major debit or credit card, which can be traced in the event something goes wrong. One advantage of using a credit card specifically is that you have certain protections under the Fair Credit Billing Act, which allows you to dispute unauthorized charges.
- Never make wire payments or cash payments. NEVER make a payment using a wire transfer service or money transfer service such as Western Union, Money Gram, Zelle, CashApp, or Venmo.
“Summer plans can quickly melt if consumers aren’t careful when they book their getaway," James said. "Vacation fraud happens every year, but there are ways to avoid it and protect yourself from getting burned.
James encouraged New Yorkers to report suspected fraud to the Attorney General's Consumer Frauds Bureau through its website.
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