Don’t let fraudsters ruin a Florida vacation – this handy guide looks at common scams in Miami vacation rentals, and how to outsmart the people behind them.
When traveling to Miami for a holiday with family or friends, vacation rentals are a great alternative to a hotel. Not only can they end up being more affordable than a hotel, and offer more room to move, they can also give visitors a taste of what it’s like to live in Miami – to do their own shopping and cooking, and to feel like they’ve come home at the end of the day.
Unfortunately for some people, their dream of relaxing in their own little piece of Miami comes to a crashing halt when they realize the house, condo, or apartment they paid for either doesn’t exist or isn’t actually for rent. There are a number of Miami vacation rental scams taking money from innocent holidaymakers, but the good news is they can be outsmarted.
Common Miami Vacation Rental Scams
One of the most common Miami vacation rental scams is simple but effective. The fraudster takes a photo of a property that is either for sale or rent through a reputable agency and then places an ad for it on vacation rental websites. After paying the deposit, or worse, the amount in full, the victim discovers the property either isn’t at the address they were given or has someone living in it when they arrive with their luggage.
When the victim tries to contact the fraudster, they soon discover that they are no longer returning their calls or emails. Unfortunately for a lot of victims, there is often no way to retrieve their money and they simply have to check into a hotel and try to salvage their vacation as best they can.
While not as dramatic as having nowhere to stay at all, other holidaymakers have had their vacation marred by discovering the property they rented is nowhere near the beaches or sights they were looking forward to visiting. Or that the bargain price they agreed on did not include a long list of hidden charges and fees.
Other scams involve taking the deposit and then saying that the cheap property is no longer available, but the deposit can be put towards more expensive accommodation. Then there are those who simply take the deposit and run.
How to Outsmart the Fraudsters Behind Vacation Rental Scams
First, people should make sure the property exists, is available to rent, and that the person they are dealing with actually has the right to rent it out. An internet search on the property can reveal if it fits the description on the ad, thanks to interactive satellite maps, and where available, Google’s Street View.
Prospective renters can take advantage of the property appraiser’s website for the Miami-Dade area which allows people to see who the owner of any property is by entering their name or the property’s address. Those with friends in the area can go one step further by asking them to go visit and make sure everything is above board.
Anonymous websites like Craigslist are the easiest for fraudsters to trick people, so it is safer to go with a respected vacation rental site. It is also worth checking whether the website guarantees its listings or assumes any liability for misleading or fraudulent listings.
When it comes time to secure the booking and hand over the money, beware of anyone who demands all of the cash up front, and those who want the money wired to them. Banks may be able to advise customers on the safest way to transfer funds, and depending on the credit card, fraud protection could also save the day if something goes wrong.
What People Should Do if they are Victims of Rental Vacation Scams
People who believe they have fallen victim to a Miami vacation rental scam or any other fraudulent activity should contact the United States’ consumer protection agency, the Federal Trade Commission.
Depending on the situation, they may also want to speak to the local police. At the end of the day, it’s worth keeping in mind that if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. If a Miami vacation rental is on offer for a dramatically lower price than similar properties, pay attention when that red flag starts to wave.
Potential vacationers should also keep in mind that there are a lot of honest property owners who have gorgeous homes in Miami that they can rent. By taking a few precautions they can turn the odds of staying in such properties in their favor and enjoy a memorable holiday in their very own Miami vacation rental.