Short-term vacation rentals from websites such as and can save you on accommodations, but even these legit sites sometimes have illegal listings, fake reviews and bogus damage fees. Here are the most common vacation-rental scams and how to protect yourself….


Scam: Bait and switch. The host informs you that a rental you booked or inquired about isn’t available. He/she offers a lower-priced but comparable one that hasn’t been posted yet. He suggests that you correspond offsite through e-mail or WhatsApp…sends you photos of the other accommodation…then asks you to use PayPal or wire the money to him directly. Problem: The private listing is a fake or isn’t as nice as the original one.

Before you book: Always interact and communicate inside the sites. Ask questions about the property and attractions—vague answers are a red flag since many scammers don’t live locally. Go online to the tax assessor’s office where the rental is located to see if the host’s name matches that of the rental-property owner.


Scam: Doctored photos. When you arrive at the rental you booked, it lacks the features you saw online.

Before you book: Do a reverse Google image search to make sure the listing isn’t using stock or stolen photos.


Scam: Multiple listings. The host lists the same property at different prices and books the property with different guests, then selects the highest bidder and cancels on you at the last minute.

Before you book: As you surf the rental sites, keep an eye out for properties that look similar. Remove the price filter from your search to see if a property is listed at different prices.

If a host suddenly tells you the property you booked is not available: Make sure the host cancels it, not you. Example: Airbnb offers full refunds for host cancellations, but you could end up paying cancellation fees if you cancel.


Scam: Fake reviews. Hosts manipulate the review process by enlisting friends to write positive reviews.

Before you book: Stick with properties that have many reviews since it’s harder to fake so many. Also, be wary if several reviews were written in short succession or if they use similar language.


Scam: Illegal listings. Many cities, including Las Vegas and New York City, have laws limiting the use of short-term rentals and home-sharing services. When you arrive, you may not be allowed in by the building’s security staff.

Before you book: Ask the host for his short-term rental permit and registration.


Scam: Bogus damage fees. After your stay at a rental, you get a message notifying you about damage that you allegedly caused and a demand for money for repairs. The host may threaten to have your security deposit withheld or leave a negative review.

Self-defense: Right after you check in and before you check out, take a quick video of the property to document its condition. Inform your host that you are doing so to protect both parties. If you notice any preexisting damage, take photos and share them with the host through the booking site.

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