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VRBO/Homeaway?

Maryland
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4 posts
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VRBO/Homeaway?

who has used either of these sites for vacation rentals? I was planning to rent in Europe next summer. Most places require deposit upfront and balance also before arrival. Are they reputable? What recourse do you have if you show up and someone else is renting your place, or you can't get keys? They have been around a while and I'm hoping this is a good idea.... appreciate any advice/info.

255 replies to this topic
Sorrento
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51. Re: VRBO/Homeaway?

I found a vacation rental in the Disney area for May on HomeAway. The emails we received from the "owner" turned out to be someone who either hacked HomeAway (they say no) or the Owner's email, or something in between. There was no way to tell that the emails were not legit. Contract look like other contracts we had signed over the past 8 years. The owner lives in UK, so when we were told to bank wire transfer the money to Lloyds TSB business bank in UK, we didn't question it. The scammer even called me when I emailed that I would not send the money until I spoke with him. He spoke at length about the property and amenities, answered questions about the outdoor kitchen etc.

One week after paying, I noticed on the website that the dates we reserved still showed available. I clicked on "send email" again and had the response (from a different email address) that the property was available for those dates. I wrote back that he needed to call me concerning my payment, and I finally spoke with the genuine owner. Three people besides myself (one from Belgium) had sent money to the scammer. I went to HomeAway website, and checked the community forums, and found many other victims. My bank said that this problem has just become epidemic in just the past 4 months. Use HomeAway/VRBO etc with great caution. Don't pay any money until you speak to the owner at the phone number listed on the ad. If you can't reach them, wait until you can, ask HomeAway to contact them for you-- to call you. And although many owners don't like credit cards, using them (even if you have to pay the up to 3.5% fee) is the only method of payment that protects you if you are defrauded by one of these scammers. I lost $3800. Hope this helps you avoid similar trouble.

Townsville...
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586 posts
89 reviews
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52. Re: VRBO/Homeaway?

Sorry to hear of your experience. I can't imagine what would've happened if you didn't find out before your arrival :-( This is the exact story I've heard from numerous travellers. I found a fantastic apartment in Florence, but when they'd only accept international bank transfer, I went for my 2nd apartment choice, who did accept paypal. When I also told my Venice rental I would only pay via paypal, he accepted and requested a smaller deposit (due to paypal % charge). Shows if they want your business they'll accept the options which offer renters more protection, otherwise I think it safer to keep on looking. There's no reason they can't offer paypal & charge the renter the % fee imposed. Safe travels.

Lincoln, NH
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2,673 posts
11 reviews
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53. Re: VRBO/Homeaway?

Concerning the last two posts. Yes, some HomeAway advertisers have had their personal accounts compromised. What happens is that someone else is reading the email, and then deleting any record of it after forwarding it to another account they control. It is, as KEB1955 can attest, nearly impossible to tell the real from the fake. However, there are some telltale signs that should throw up a warning. The first is a wire transfer or bank check as payment. Owners generally prefer a personal check or credit card. Payments sent out of the country are the next worry. Most owners of US properties are from the US.

I have an ad on Homeaway. It has my name and my home phone number, both of which can be found in a multitude of web sites (Anywho.com). Payment (I only take checks) is sent to my home. You can look up all of the information about me online and compare it with the address where you'll send the check. So, when you pay me, you know where the money is going. It provides a pretty good assurance that I'm the owner.

Tax records are also occasional helpful. I pay lodging tax to my state, and I am listed in online records as holding a license to rent my property.

Bottom line - yes, be careful - no, never send a money order, bank check or wire to someone overseas, unless you know them. And speak to the owners. KEB1995 got a real pro who was able to trick them, but most scammers are not willing to speak with you on the phone, and could not normally give good details of the home.

LMM

Edited: 1:48 pm, March 02, 2012
Sorrento
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4 posts
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54. Re: VRBO/Homeaway?

LMM, The real owner in the ad's phone info started with 44 country code. Meaning his home phone is in England, and now having spoken to him, he lives all year in England, so a transfer to UK made perfect sense. I looked up info on him and found that he had been advertising this rental on HomeAway for 10 years! He had paid this year's property tax, so it was not in foreclosure....etc.

The email reply I had from my inquiry on HomeAway was supposed to be from him. And the contract had the owners' names and correct address for the rental property, also, some rental property owners on HomeAway don't accept credit cards because of the usage charge of up to 3.5% (would have been $133 in my case). They told me they only accept bank wire transfers, as they are protected more by those than by credit cards. After 7 or 8 years of booking our family reunions we have seen a variety of conditions to payment, and this is the first that went south.........

Lincoln, NH
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2,673 posts
11 reviews
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55. Re: VRBO/Homeaway?

Wow -- KEB, there was really nothing that could have tipped you off since the real owner was also from the UK. I guess then if sending money out of the country, do so only by credit card, where you have some recourse -- and the scammer would have to create a credit card account. That's a shame, you really did everything right.

I have heard that the way this scam is working is that advertiser's email accounts are targeted by scammers because access to our personal email accounts can allow the scammer to intercept the original inquiry... and the payoff can be thousands of dollars. The good news is that I know Homeaway is working on new safeguards.

Sorrento
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4 posts
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56. Re: VRBO/Homeaway?

Not entirely sure, based on feedback from owners who have experience in web design and security and still had that happen, that HomeAways/VRBO websites have not been compromised in some way. Some of them don't just have it set up to receive messages from HA/VRBO to a simple email address. Until the scammers are caught (and I have reason to believe they have left a very wide paper trail in UK, and live in an area just west of and in west London) we will not know how this happened. I am sure they will supply that info.

The bad news is that HomeAway/VRBO has taken too long and is taking too long to safeguard their sites. I am reading of this happening through most of LAST YEAR. With HomeAway etc. initially saying their had been a security breach on their site. They are no longer saying that. One travel writer was told at the beginning of this year that HomeAway knew of 18 people who had been scammed. This was not true. Check out HomeAway.com community forum pages. There are several threads of conversations on the hacking and the scams. Google HomeAway scams and hacking. You will find articles by these travel writers. If you are interested.

Southport, North...
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57. Re: VRBO/Homeaway?

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Check out Homeaway email scams on yahoo. We just lost $5,850.00 for a villa in Punta Cana that we arranged through Homeaway.com. Called them to confirm receipt of funds and they didn't have any record of our reservation. We received an email from them hours later claiming they can "confirm" the owners email acct was breached. I spoke wit hthe owner and he advised me he had not heard from Homeaway.com. In fact he had to call them 3 days later to find out what the issue was. I then received a email from homeaway.com alerting me that the owners email act 'May" have been breached! How do they go from comfirmation to maybe. In any event homeaway.com claims they bear no responsibility.

Sorrento
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4 posts
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58. Re: VRBO/Homeaway?

Steve, I am very sorry this happened to you. If you are on facebook, there is a closed group of us victims comparing stories, and assisting each other to figure out what to do in reporting these crimes, getting the message out and possibly taking legal action together. Write about your experience to VictimOfRentalFraud@gmail.com. The recipient will add you to the group. I have found it very helpfu. If you are not a member of facebook, may I advise that you treat this like the crime it is. Make your bank send info you supply to them with contract, proof of payment, emails exchanged and a synopsis of the way events unfolded, to the receiving bank in UK. You did not mention the bank details but everyone we have heard about wired money to UK. And checking each bank's post code has shown that the banks are all in the same area (about 30 min. drive from each other). Law enforcement in UK is brought in by the receiving bank. The information we victims provide is the proof of the crime. They are being investigated. There is a slight hope that some of us will get our money back. At the very least, when they catch these thieves, there is a good probability of finding out if they hacked the owners' emails, or the HomeAway/VRBO sites. Which will help in future litigation. Most of us have filled out a report at the FBI site ic3.gov. Good luck.

Southport, North...
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13 reviews
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59. Re: VRBO/Homeaway?

Be afraid. Be very afraid. We thought we had arranged for a villa in Punta Cana. When we called for confirmation a week before our trip we were advised there was no record of our rental. Homeaway sent us an email CONFIRMING the owners email acct had been breached. How they knew this is hard to understand since they never contacted the home owner. A few days later we received an email that the acct MAY HAVEbeen breached. Homeaway takes no responsibility in our loss of $5,850.00

Midlands
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60. Re: VRBO/Homeaway?

I made one enquiry through homeaway.co.uk and have been relentlessly spammed ever since.

I carefully did NOT sign up for their newsletter but immediately started receiving it, and their unsubscribe function has no effect.

So I would avoid them.

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