Scammers ruin vacation rental plans

Criminals hack email accounts of rental property owners

Beware of vacation rental scams.
Beware of vacation rental scams.

Now that it's time to book summer vacations, Consumer Reports warns that criminals are hacking into the email accounts of vacation rental property owners and defrauding renters out of a lot of money.

Kathie Grealish rents out her summerhouse with a view of the water. She was shocked recently to get a call from a woman who thought she had signed a contract on the house.

"She said, 'Our family is coming, and we're looking into renting bicycles.' I said, 'I don't , this name does not sound familiar'," Grealish said.

Grealish lists her house on VRBO, a popular vacation rental site.  Apparently, a scam artist had hacked into her email and posing as her, sent a forged contract.  It listed a foreign bank and told the renter to send more than $3,000.

"That's  just one of the tricks that criminals use to steal your money and ruin your vacation," said Consumer Reports' Tobie Stanger. "Another ploy? They lure you with properties that are in foreclosure or don't even exist."

Consumer Reports found many complaints of vacation fraud with a simple online search.

To protect yourself, before you send any money, call the owner and develop a business relationship. That way you can assess the legitimacy of the listing.

"How you pay is also important," Stanger said.

She said never use wire transfers, cashier's checks or money orders. Instead, use credit card, PayPal or use the payment transfer option on the rental website.

Consumer Reports also recommends using the website Flipkey if you want to rent a house or apartment.  It conducts background checks background checks on landlords and makes sure the properties are legitimate.

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