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Crime & Safety
Every week, join Whitney Quick as she helps you navigate life as a smart consumer. You'll cover everything in avoiding the latest scams, including phishing emails, medical equipment fraud, understanding layaway, hiring a reputable tax preparer, and even digital spring cleaning. Add to your toolbox and flip through your Consumer Handbook Thursdays during NPR’s Morning Edition at 6:42 a.m. and 8:42 a.m., only on KRCU.

Consumer Handbook: Rental Scams Frequent Among Home, Vacation Property Listings

Better Business Bureau

The place seems like a dream come true: the right space, the right location, and the right price. But is it really for rent? Or will the renter or traveler arrive to find their money gone with nowhere to stay? 

A recent study by Better Business Bureau finds that fraud is widespread in the online rental home and vacation rental market, with 43% of online shoppers encountering a fake listing and more than 5 million consumers losing money to such scams. The study finds that 85% of consumers who encounter fake rental listings do not fall for them. However, these figures suggest that the volume of rental scams lurking on the internet is staggering. 

Rental scams can take several forms, but perhaps most commonly, fraudsters simply copy the photo and description of a property, post it online with their own contact information, and try to get a deposit and first month’s rent from the victim. The fraudster may communicate only by email or text message and claim to be out of the country, unavailable to show the property. Once the victim sends money, the fraudster disappears. 

Scams also frequently appear on vacation rental websites such as Airbnb, VRBO, and HomeAway.com. They follow the same pattern, preying on vacationers’ inability to check out a listing before paying money for it. These companies likewise have warned consumers about potential fraud and taken steps against fake listings. 

If you are the victim of a rental scam, you should file a report with local police. Then, file a consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

As always, you can view a business’ BBB Business Profile by visiting www.bbb.org.