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Beware of VRBO - Yet ANOTHER VRBO vacation scam

Portland, OR
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Beware of VRBO - Yet ANOTHER VRBO vacation scam

Yet another SCAM involving a VRBO user who was scammed out of money due to a phishing scam. In these cases their "rental guarantee" is worthless because they don't guarantee against property owners getting scammed.

elliott.org/blog/…

Stay away from VRBO or make sure you follow the terms of the site to a tee and never ever wire money for a vacation rental.

65 replies to this topic
Wellington, New...
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1. Re: Beware of VRBO - Yet ANOTHER VRBO vacation scam

What we really have here is someone who didnt read TA before sending money away to someone they dont know and not taking the appropriate safeguards before doing so.

If it looks a duck and quacks like a duck and waddles like a duck its probably a fool only too keen to part with his money.

VRBO is not the problem its the people using it who dont take enough care.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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2. Re: Beware of VRBO - Yet ANOTHER VRBO vacation scam

>>>VRBO is not the problem its the people using it who dont take enough care.<<<

+1

Portland, OR
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3. Re: Beware of VRBO - Yet ANOTHER VRBO vacation scam

I agree with both, but it's a good warning to those who use the site to make sure you follow the payment instructions and be aware that there so called travel guarantee will not protect them in cases like this.

I think VRBO is part of the problem here on some level. I think there are safeguards that could be put in place that would help prevent people from taking over their VRBO account or sending phishing scams to property owners. Two level authentication when you log into your account (VRBO and email) would help eliminate these kinds of phishing scams. There is some responsibilities on the side of the consumer but I've heard of several of these cases and VRBO washes their hands of it completely.

Mineola, New York
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4. Re: Beware of VRBO - Yet ANOTHER VRBO vacation scam

I find it hard to believe that someone just "hacked" into the owner's email to pull off this scam and that VRBO was in no way involved. I think VRBO is at the hub of these problems and it is just convenient to blame the owners.

Lincoln, NH
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5. Re: Beware of VRBO - Yet ANOTHER VRBO vacation scam

<< I find it hard to believe that someone just "hacked" into the owner's email to pull off this scam and that VRBO was in no way involved. I think VRBO is at the hub of these problems and it is just convenient to blame the owners. >>

Oh Frank, you're showing your lack of understanding of the situation. Unwitting owners are as susceptible as the the rest of the world to being scammed. It is complicated, but it is indeed possible for accounts to be hacked -- and if owners continue to leave the door open, VRBO can do nothing about it.

For those who took the time to read the linked article, the author notes right away that VRBO is not the problem. The victim wired over $9000 to a stranger. THAT'S the problem.

There are all sorts of signs that owners are either legit or frauds. Google "safe renting tips" for a more thorough discussion of understanding the signs.

LMM

Mineola, New York
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6. Re: Beware of VRBO - Yet ANOTHER VRBO vacation scam

Sorry but I did read the article completely and I just don't believe VRBO BS. You don't think there is some link between VRBO and these situations? Well I do. Sorry, but they have to start some place and I think that's VRBO. They are very quick to make all kinds of noises about being safe but then just as quick to say "sorry...not us" when some one has an issue. Yes, wiring money is a dumb idea and I do think the renter has a responsibility too but to hold VRBO harmless? Sorry, not in my mind.

Portland, OR
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7. Re: Beware of VRBO - Yet ANOTHER VRBO vacation scam

Loon, part of the problem is that VRBO gives people a false sense of security with their site. They talk about their rental guarantee that is pretty worthless in these situations and people send an email to an account provided by VRBO, believing they're corresponding with a property owner, and then send money.

I agree with you on some level, I would NEVER wire money to someone I don't know personally. Least of all $9000 for a site unseen property. I do think VRBO could put in some pretty basic security measures in place to all but eliminate these kinds of phishing scams.

Look at airbnb, all the communication is done through their website BEFORE you're given direct phone number to the property owner. Airbnb also holds the money until the renter shows up and verifies the property is legit. This provides protection for the renters.

Also, I don't think VRBO has anything to do with actual scams, they aren't ripping people off but their system is making it easy for their users to get hacked. A simple internal email/messaging system that requires two step authentication would virtually eliminate this kind of hacking.

Edited: 10 September 2012, 14:39
Lincoln, NH
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8. Re: Beware of VRBO - Yet ANOTHER VRBO vacation scam

Sorry Frank, Well-T -- it's just not the case. In situations where VRBO advertisers are hacked it's similar to the spoof email you might receive from someone posing as your bank. The homeowner gets sucked in entirely off line from the advertising site. The criminal initiates a false inquiry with the owner in order to learn the email account, then they know who to attack. Please keep in mind that VRBO and similar site are simply advertising vehicles. I doubt you would be saying the same of the New York Times if a scam artist happened to place an ad in that newspaper as their first step toward duping people with more money than sense.

Seriously, there HAS to be some level of consumer awareness and responsibility. The person in question wired money to a total stranger. Sorry, but no company can prevent that kind of ignorance.

Consider too that these are the rare exceptions. You have not stopped driving your car when someone crashes and dies. You acknowledge the danger, and if you are smart, you keep driving, and exercise caution.

I am an owner who advertises on HomeAway, parent company of VRBO, and have a very good understanding of the challenges of thwarting con artists and the exceptional measures HomeAway and VRBO take to protect customers.

Portland, OR
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9. Re: Beware of VRBO - Yet ANOTHER VRBO vacation scam

Loon, I understand the process. Scammers send out inquiries with the intent of determining the owner's email address and then obtain their PW through phishing or trojans or key loggers whatever. The scammer then intercepts emails from legitimate customers and gives them bogus payment information and takes the money. This often happens without the account owner being aware.

My point is, if VRBO were to install a internal messaging server that had second level authentication you could remove some of the risk with the phishing scams. Similar to what most banks use, such that if the site detects a new computer or new IP address a log in would then require additional credentials beyond just a PW allow access to the system. This would prevent somoene who simply has a email password from intercepting emails and posing as the property owner. The official email system could also contain Craigslist type disclosures and warnings telling people not to send wire transfers or use western union type money transfer systems.

Of course there is always a certain amount of customer level responsibility here but as a host website. Don't you think VRBO has a interest in making sure their site more secure and providing an improved customer experience?

Edited: 10 September 2012, 17:49
Lincoln, NH
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10. Re: Beware of VRBO - Yet ANOTHER VRBO vacation scam

W-T -- they're planning on implementing that system in the coming months -- sadly many owners don't want the "interference".

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