Too Good to be True: Vacation Rental Fraud

We’ve landed on this beautiful island, planned a week full of activities, but where the heck is the house we rented??? Sound like a fun way to start your trip? All too often, trusting travelers live this nightmare: a travel scam. You find a great villa in some exotic location, email an inquiry, and receive the great news that the house is not only available (really!?!?) but it’s offered for a 50% special (really!?!?). The old adage comes to mind: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. “So how do I book?” you ask the friendly correspondent, hoping you can nail this down before it slips away to another guest.

Next thing you know, you’re emailed wiring instructions, a rental contract, and information about the villa. It all sounds too good to be true. One moment please. Do you hear that little voice inside you that’s trying to SCREAM? Pay attention to that inner voice. You should always be wary of deals that seem so implausible. Why would the rental agency have the incentive to offer you a high demand week at a steep discount when you’ve found other sources that are either sold out or asking a premium for the dates?

 

We get calls every year from guests who’ve been scammed by such criminals. Often, they disengage before sending funds to an anonymous account, never to be seen again, but at times, money is transferred before the scam is realized. Ugh. We generally hear of this happening during high travel weeks, such as Christmas or New Year’s or in February or March, during Winter breaks. These scams seem to be getting more and more sophisticated, but there are some commonalities:

 

1) The correspondent is not available by phone. Anyone reserving a villa for you LOVES to speak to you in person. Never move forward with anyone who refuses to do so.

 

2) The language or grammar is broken or improper. Often, the accounts are overseas and translating software is utilized, which is not always conversational, as we are accustomed. This is not to say a home grown American can’t participate in this sort of scam though…

 

3) Generous cancellation policies. If you can cancel 2 weeks prior to travel, that is not typical. They know you’ll never see your money again anyway, so this is not of issue to them.

 

4) Only accepting wire transfers. It’s not unusual for an agency to not accept credit cards. In fact, in the 40 years we’ve been renting villas, we never have. However, checks sent to a physical and verifiable address should always be acceptable. Make sure you have a contact name and address for the company to whom you send funds.

 

Lastly, always check your source. These days, a quick online search will yield all kinds of information about a company. If you read reviews on the shoes you’re buying online from a department store, also take the time to read about the company you’re sending a large check to.

 

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TC Villas offers beachfront vacation rental villas on the island of Providenciales, Turks and Caicos. You can find our villas at www.tcvillas.com. Contact TC Villas at at info@tcvillas.com  or by phone from 9-5 EST at 1.877.467.4858 to book your perfect beachfront vacation villa!

 

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