Personal experience with Craigslist Vacation Rental Scam
A few weekends ago, my brother had his graduation ceremony in Los Angeles. We were very excited about it as it was a big family get-together to celebrate the graduation. My brother had booked a place near Venice beach at Santa Monica, California.
While driving to Los Angeles, I noticed my brother checking his email frequently. When I asked him if anything was wrong, he responded “I am looking for an email from the host to confirm receipt of 50% advance” . I was a bit surprised with the response, but figured that if someone booked a place from VRBO or Homeaway, it could be a standard practice that not everything is buttoned up till the day of the trip. After a few hours, he started getting more worried as he had still not heard back from the host. When I asked him to give the host a call, I was surprised to find out that he never received a phone number from the host. I checked all the documents – they looked professional, but no contact information of the host at all, which was weird!
We reached the address around 11pm and that’s when our worst nightmare was confirmed – The house was exactly what we saw in pictures, but no one was there – no host, no keys, NOTHING! We looked around and was lucky to run into a neighbor who told us that the house belonged to a prominent person and to the best of his knowledge, it was not a vacation rental. Yes, we got scammed!
Here is my post-mortem of the situation:
Things done right:
- Confirmed the address at google maps though he has booked the place from Craigslist. He knew that the house did exist!
- Using a cheque instead of a credit card
- Not checking the number to call beforehand and not knowing clearly how the key would be delivered to him
- Not using a site that safeguards against scams such as these
- Communicate enough with host without sharing much personal information
- Use credit card to pay any upfront amount
- Book properties from reputed sites that provides protection from scams such as these. For example, we at Zaranga will not remit your funds to the hosts till a day after check-in unless the host is certified by us
- Watch for red flags such as when hosts pressure you to act fast by letting you know that you’ll lose out if you don’t decide quickly