They aren’t frequent but unfortunately scams do happen, and it’s good to aware of red flags. Be extra careful of any inquiries that meet any of these criteria:
- The traveler has a poor grasp of spelling, grammar, capitalization, and punctuation.
- They use a free online e-mail service.
- They give you far more information than a typical traveler.
- They say that they are a religious figure, sea captain, doctor, or officer in the armed forces.
- They want to arrange a surprise trip for someone else.
- They provide excuses about not being able to use a credit card (i.e. they don’t feel comfortable because credit cards aren’t “safe” or available where they live).
- They want to pay by certified check, cashier’s check, or unsecured wire transfer.
- They offer to pay more than your stated rate.
- They provide unsolicited payment information in the initial inquiry.
- No inquiry comments or traveler phone number are provided.
- They ask to arrive within 24 hours for a short stay (i.e. They stay/leave before the owner becomes aware that funds are reversed because of the use of stolen credit card information.)
- They refer to your home improperly in the body of the inquiry (i.e. asks about your lovely apartment when you own a cabin).
- They submit an inquiry for specific dates but say that dates are flexible.
Over Pay Scam
This is a very common scam. The individual sends you a cashier’s check or money order for an amount that is more than what is actually due. The check will turn out to be counterfeit or stolen. However, before your bank realizes this, the individual asks you to send the “overpayment” amount back to them or to a third party. For example, many times they’ll use an excuse saying that their travel planner or company’s financial department will be paying for the reservation. Later they tell you there was a mistake and they need for you to send the extra funds back or to a third party to complete another reservation. After you’ve sent the funds, your bank will discover that the original check is not valid and you will never hear from this individual again.
Another variant involves the use of credit cards. The scammer will reserve your property and pay using a credit card. They will then contact you and ask for a refund by another payment type, often bank-to-bank transfer, giving an excuse as to why they cannot accept payment back on their credit card. After you have sent funds, it turns out they were using stolen credit card information.
Some scammers will send you the correct rental amount via cashier’s check or money order. They don’t attempt to send you an overpayment, but they are still using a bad check to facilitate this transaction. In this variation of the scam, the individual suddenly indicates that they will need to cut their trip short and asks you to send them a partial refund of their payment. Only after you have sent these funds does your bank discover that their original check was stolen or counterfeit.
In all variations, owners lose by sending some of their own funds to a scammer before discovering that the original payment is not valid. In order to protect yourself from an overpayment scam, make it clear to potential travelers that you will not accept more than the amount due and never send refunds for any overpayment to anyone.