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One way to get access to a larger vacation rental is to use a company like Vrbo to connect with someone who rents out their home to others. Even though Vrbo is a legitimate company, there are those who will use the platform to try and scam you for your hard-earned cash. Let’s take a look at common Vrbo scams to get an idea of what to watch out for and tips to avoid Vrbo scams, including investing in the best identity theft protection.
6 common Vrbo scams
Tips to avoid Vrbo scams
Vrbo scams FAQ
Is Vrbo safe?
For the most part, Vrbo is safe. The company is designed to connect homeowners with travelers who need more space and privacy while they travel.
According to the Vrbo website, the company takes steps to provide guest protection, including payment protection in the event a listing is fraudulent, and access to customer support to help you through your stay.
Additionally, Vrbo offers its “Book with Confidence” guarantee.
If you are still worried about using Vrbo, you can invest in identity theft protection for peace of mind while booking. Here are some recommendations.
- Norton LifeLock: LifeLock provides standard identity monitoring, identity theft insurance, and unique features like home title monitoring, bank account takeover alerts, and file-sharing network searches. If you opt for the Ultimate Plus plan, you can receive up to $3 million in identity theft insurance, which covers lawyers and experts, stolen funds reimbursement, and personal expense reimbursement.
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- Aura: Aura is best for tech-savvy users who value the use of advanced technologies to combat identity theft. To protect you from spam, it uses artificial intelligence to detect potential spam calls and texts before you can become a victim of identity theft.
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- Identity Guard: Identity Guard is a cost-effective service for seniors and families looking to protect their children from identity fraud. It also has a user-friendly interface and straightforward identity theft protection and credit monitoring guides for any users who are new to these services.
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What is the Vrbo Book with Confidence guarantee?
When you pay for a vacation rental through the Vrbo website, it offers a Book with Confidence guarantee. You can expect help with four main areas through this guarantee:
- Access to the property. If you can’t get into the property during check-in hours and the owner isn’t responding, Vrbo will help you figure something out.
- Payment protection. Get your money back if an owner withholds your damage deposit improperly or if the listing is fraudulent.
- Cancellation by the owner. Vrbo will help you find another, comparable property if the owner cancels unexpectedly within 30 days of your stay.
- Description of property. If the property is significantly different from what is described, including missing amenities, or if you’re unable to stay in the property, Vrbo will help you find a different place to stay.
Vrbo expects you to contact the property owner or manager first. If you can’t resolve the issue with the owner, or if they’re unresponsive, you can then contact Vrbo for help resolving the issue.
It’s important to note that Vrbo’s guarantee isn’t the same thing as travel insurance. An event outside the owner’s control, such as a natural disaster or pandemic, isn’t covered under Book with Confidence. Additionally, anything on your end that leads to cancellation, such as illness or flight delays, aren’t covered under the Vrbo guarantee.
6 common Vrbo scams
Before you hop on Vrbo to get a vacation home, it’s important to be aware of potential scams. Here are some common Vrbo scams you might run into.
1. Off-site payment requests
In some cases, you might be asked to make a payment off Vrbo. This is a red flag since it takes you out of the Vrbo ecosystem where the Book with Confidence guarantee isn’t in effect. After you send the money to the scammer, it’s hard to recover when you don’t use the Vrbo payment portal.
If someone asks you to pay them through a wire transfer or through some other method, including PayPal, that’s a warning sign. Rather than pay outside Vrbo, make sure you use the Vrbo payment method to access payment protection.
2. Fake listings
Watch out for fake listings that might be attempts by fraudsters to get you to pay upfront. In some cases, the fraudster will leave the fake listing up. You show up to the property and may not be able to get in — or it might not exist at all.
Depending on the situation, Vrbo might be able to help you get access to a different property, but the damage is likely already done.
You should always watch for phishing scams online — and that includes on Vrbo. With a phishing scam, a fraudster will send an email that looks like it might come from a Vrbo property owner or manager. They ask for information or might ask you to click on a link to “fix a problem.” At this point, they can get your password or other sensitive information and access your account or use the information for identity theft.
Rather than clicking on links in emails, go straight to the Vrbo website and check for messages there. You can also report the suspicious email to Vrbo so they’re aware.
4. Hijacked ads
Rather than putting up a fake listing, some scammers hijack ads. They take a real ad and modify it with a different email address or phone number. You might see what looks like a legitimate ad for a rental property on Vrbo, but you’ll click on a link that takes you to a fake site. Once there, you pay for a rental, thinking you’re getting a good deal. But now the fraudster has your money and your credit card information.
Either way, the idea is to get you to think you’re getting a real rental property and you actually end up sending your information and money to a fraudster.
5. Hijacked email
Another trick scammers might use is to hijack the email of a legitimate Vrbo owner or manager. Questions and notifications get routed to the fraudster, and you might be pressured to book quickly — and do so off the Vrbo website. Sometimes, you might be told that spots are closing fast and you’ll lose your chance.
Avoid clicking on links in high-pressure emails. Additionally, you can report phishing emails to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
This Vrbo scam is aimed at people who own homes and list them on Vrbo. Someone claiming to be a business might say they want to send a cashier’s check or some other form of payment to you to rent your listing. You agree, and they “overpay” by sending an extra amount. They tell you it’s a mistake and ask you to wire the difference back.
Once you send the difference, you discover that the form of payment sent is invalid and the “extra” money you sent back is gone.
Tips to avoid Vrbo scams
If you want to avoid Vrbo scams, watch for red flags. You can avoid being scammed when using Vrbo with some online safety tips:
- Use the Vrbo payment platform. Whether it’s a fake listing or some type of hijacking, be wary of owners that ask you to take the transaction off the platform. They might promise you a reduction in fees, which can be tempting. But once you pay away from the Vrbo site, you could lose your money, and you won’t be able to access the Vrbo Book with Confidence guarantee.
- Watch for spelling and grammar that seems “off.” When a listing has too many usage errors or if an email has a lot of typos, that’s usually a warning sign of a scam.
- Don’t “refund” overpayment. Any situation where someone asks you for a refund of an overpayment is likely to be a scam, whether it’s on Vrbo or on some other site.
- Check other listings. Many people and property management companies list their property on multiple sites. Check other websites to see if the listing matches up. It should be similar — and for a similar price — on major sites like Vrbo, Orbitz, and Airbnb. If one listing is for a significantly lower price, that could be a red flag that it’s been hijacked.
- Be wary if there aren’t many reviews. Watch out for listings that don’t have reviews yet. While it might just be a new listing, it’s important to be careful. If there are no reviews at all, it could be a scam.
- Pay attention to photos. If the photos are grainy, or if they have watermarks on them, that could be an indication that the listing is phony. A property owner won’t need to get stock photos, and they should have clear, non-grainy photos.
- Go straight to the website’s URL. Rather than clicking on a link in an email or ad, go directly to the known URL of the website. You’re less likely to be directed to a fake website.
Pay attention to your gut. In many cases, if a listing seems too good to be true, it probably is. Compare the listing you’re considering with other, similar listings to see if the details are consistent. And the best safety precaution you can take is to use the website’s payment portal since you’ll have some protection against fake listings and phishing.
Vrbo vacation rental scams FAQ
How do I report scams to Vrbo?
Vrbo has a contact form you can use to report scams.
Are Vrbo owners verified?
Vrbo hosts won’t have a verified badge that renters can see. Vrbo claims it verifies owners, but you should always do your homework, just in case. Check out the host’s reviews. If the review history is suspiciously short, or if there’s an alarming number of negative reviews, it’s probably best to pick a different rental.
On the other hand, Vrbo guests can be verified. Vrbo gives this badge to renters who provide proof of their physical address, date of birth, or other personal information.
Is Vrbo safer than Airbnb?
Both Vrbo and Airbnb have policies in place designed to help you avoid scams as long as you follow the rules and pay through the website. However, both Vrbo and Airbnb are subject to scams.
Is it normal for Vrbo to ask for ID?
As a guest, you don’t need to provide an ID unless you want a Verified Identity badge next to your name. This means Vrbo has confirmed your physical address, date of birth, and other personal information.
As of the time of writing, there's no way for a property owner to ask a guest for ID before sending a booking request.
Is Vrbo the same as HomeAway?
Technically, yes. HomeAway is another vacation rental site that purchased Vrbo in 2006. In 2015, both HomeAway and Vrbo were purchased by Expedia Group, and the HomeAway site was merged into Vrbo in 2020.
Using Vrbo can be one way to get a good deal on a vacation rental. However, it’s important to pay attention to the requirements and watch out for red flags. Stick with the on-site payment and make sure you’re following site guidelines so you’re protected in cases of fraud. These are always good steps to take to avoid scams. If you want both proactive and reactive protection, you can read our list of the best identity theft protection services.