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How to spot a phishing or scam enquiry for your vacation rental home
Phishing and scam enquiries are becoming increasingly common as the vacation rentals industry grows. Owners need to be vigilant and be aware of how to spot them when receiving emails and calls from 'guests' about their rental home.
Bogus Enquiries & Bookings
Be aware that if your property is one or more holiday rental portals, you will possibly get fake enquiries which are really from scammers attempting to illicit sensitive information or money from you. However don’t be too anxious about this, as long as you’re vigilant with every enquiry it shouldn’t affect your rental business too much.
If an enquiry is blighted with poor spelling and grammar, strange English, mention of payment too early and overly-familiar tones this always sets our alarm bells ringing. If you’re uneasy about the enquiry, ignore it. Or at very least check the guest’s name and phone number online as it may lead you to a warning post.
22 ways to spot potentially bogus enquiries/bookings…
Questions that don’t relate to your specific property or use of ambiguous words.
Introducing themselves in this format “Hello, I’m ***** ****** from *******”.
Sharing personal details with you like illness and death.
Phrases like “I’m glad to inform you”, “Kindly check if…”,“My regards to your family”, “Stay blessed”, “Await your swift response”, “Waiting ur reply” and “Wanna rent your property”.
Requested stays of one month or more.
The email address being totally different to the owner/manager’
Wanting to pay instantly by moneygram, wire transaction or ‘certified check’.
Third parties booking on behalf of ‘clients’ ‘missionary groups’ or ‘delegates coming for a conference’.
A guest stating they are being sent to your area by their company.
Asking immediately for “your final price”.
Someone asking for payment terms and wanting to book straight away without any questions.
The overpayment scam – A guest claiming to have overpaid in error by cheque and wanting a refund of the difference.
Premium rate telephone numbers. Check an unknown telephone prefix before calling any enquirer back as it may lead to a exhorbitant telephone rate call scam.
EMAILS ENTIRELY WRITTEN IN UPPER CASE.
The enquirer giving lots of reasons why they can’t pay by credit card.
Guest stating they have no contact phone number as they are ‘on the road’.
Involvement of an accountant.
Mention of reimbursement to a ‘travel agent’.
Poor grammar (although this can be the result of translation tools like BabelFish or Google Translate).
Numerous spelling errors. Not necessary a tell-tale sign but it is definitely prevalent within scam emails.
Signing off with “Have a nice day”.
Requesting a copy of your passport or national insurance card for guest ‘business expense’ reasons.*
*As well as the overpayment scam, another less-documented one is to get hold of an owners identification by requesting it for business expense reasons when a ‘booking’ is being confirmed. This, alongside your bank details gives a scammer enough to carry out transfers from an owners account. Be very wary of giving copies of your ID to potential guests.
Phishing is the name given to solicitation of sensitive information like credit card numbers, usernames, passwords, addresses and other personal details.
It will regularly take the form of an email claiming to be from a trusted company. This will include a link to another webpage for you to update such information, subsequently leading to your account being manipulated. If someone else has run of your advert they can use it to fraudulently get ‘rental income’ from unsuspecting enquiries.
Be wary of phrases like “Your account has been suspended”. Such emails are usually bogus.
So, never update your details from an email link requesting personal information. If you do think it may be genuine always return directly and login to the company’s official site or call the company to verify if any details are in fact required.
HomeAway recently posted a message to owners advertising on their site warning of an email message below doing the rounds requesting users to avail of their free ant-virus software.
Protect yourself and your travelers
Visit our new security center for best practices on how to protect your
online accounts from identity theft and keep rental payments secure.
Don’t be fooled by long addresses that have a reputable holiday rental name or google in them: www.homeaway.com.unscrupulouswebsite.com/
Hover over any links and in the bottom left of the browser window you should see the actual URL of the link. The main extension of the enquirers email address can also be researched in a search engine to check if they are indeed a reputable company/website.
Other phishing scams include calls to your home asking for your email address – the excuse usually being that an enquiry was sent to you which may not have been received. This is could be a possible attempt to send you a subsequent email from the relevent holiday listing company which, if you follow links, could comprimise your listing security. Never give out your email address in this way as prospective guests can always contact you again via a website form.
Stories about owner’s email address and adverts being compromised are rife…
Fake PayPal emails
Do not open emails purporting to be from Paypal about disputes or payments having been made from your account. They are convincing looking! If unsure simply delete it and go to the official PayPal site to check.
What can you do to make sure your adverts haven’t been breached or cloned?
Make sure you check/edit your adverts and, if applicable to the booking portal, your enquiry history, regularly. Your weekly availability calendar update is a good time to do this.
Check chunks of your advert text* and images online regularly to make sure they are not being fraudulently used online elsewhere (this has been rife on ‘Craigs List’). You can search for your website content on www.copyscape.com and images on www.tineye.com or Google images**.
*Either copy and paste a chunk of your advert/website text or use Google Alerts which will send you an alert email if it finds your keywords.
**In Google Images just click on the camera icon on the right of the search box to paste a website url or upload image which can then be checked across the web for matches.
The more websites your property appears on, the more likely you are to be contacted by new ‘unique’ holiday rental websites. We receive at least a half a dozen phone calls throughout the year to advertise on a new holiday portal for an exceptionally low price. They will usually claim to be specifically searching for properties in certain areas for their clients. Proceed with extreme caution. If it seems too good to be true, it usually is.
Before you consider anything, check the following:
Property forums (e.g. Lay My Hat) – where fellow owners may well have posted their mutual concerns/experiences about a specific company.
Alexa.com / Urlspy.co.uk / Compete.com – Enter the website address to check its traffic ranking/popularity and which other websites link to them.
WHOIS – who owns the website? Then search this name.
Ask for a free trial without giving any payment details. If the site is legitimately wanting you to try the service they should have a free trial period.
Your guests’ security
It’s equally important to look after your guests’ security and let them know that booking with you is safe.
State on your advert that you encourage guests to pay by PayPal for their own protection and give them your address and phone number(s) so they can both call you and reconcile the numbers. If you have guest reviews make sure potential guests can see these too. Use one or two of the several 'badges of trust' out there.
http://www.needmorerentals.com - Expert independent advice helping holiday home owners achieve maximum rental potential from their properties. Free tips and recommendations. Customised consultations.