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book your vacation home. Beware of super-cheap rates

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. The most common way scammers work is by enticing a large number of travelers in a short period of time. They do this by low-balling the rental rates. “If one listing is, say, half the price of all other comparable ones for the same amount of time, beware,” cautions Karpinski. “Put yourself in the owner’s shoes: Why would he or she voluntarily forgo that much income? Five, ten, or maybe even fifteen percent off, perhaps, but fifty percent? No way.” make sure the owner really is the owner Many states make it easy to look up property tax records. Google the property appraiser in the county where the property is located to make sure the person you are renting from actually owns the property. You might also Google the homeowner’s association and look for a phone number on the website. Call the HOA and ask if the owners really are the owners. “Now, some of the tax records might show that the property is owned by an LLC or trust. But that information actually serves as an extra barrier against being scammed,” says Karpinski. “The rental agreement should mention the LLC or trust. If it doesn’t, call the owner and ask. He or she should be able to tell you the name of this legal entity without hesitation.” Cyber-stalk the owner Do some cross-referencing across various websites: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so forth. Make sure the place of residence (where the owner lives—not where the vacation home is located) is the same as the information the owner provided. “If, for instance, you were renting one of my vacation homes in Florida, you’d see that I always provide my guests with my home and cell phone numbers,” says Karpinski. “My home number is a 512 area code. Now, if you looked me up on July - August 2012

LinkedIn, my public profile says that I live in Austin, TX, which would match the info I provided.” Also, she suggests Googling the phone number listed on the advertisement. Many property owners and managers list their homes on many different websites. If you Google the phone number listed on the ad in this format XXX XXX-XXX (area code, space, first three digits, dash, last four digits) many other websites that the property is listed on should show up in search results. Look for clues in the reviews When you are reading the reviews of the property (either on the vacation rental website or on other sites such as TripAdvisor.com), there are sometimes references to the owners’ names. A review might say something like: “Thanks, Tom and Christine, for allowing us to rent your lovely home…” If the names in the reviews do NOT match the name of the person renting the home to you, it could be a sign that something is not right. “Also, a lot of times the owner’s name and/or the housekeeper’s name will be in the review,” notes Karpinski. “If you see several reviewers thanking Mary for her wonderful hospitality, and the woman you’re dealing with is named Mary, it’s probably a legitimate listing.” Speak with the owner via phone Sure, it’s possible to be scammed over the phone. However, it’s usually easier to fool someone when you’re communicating via type. If the owner sounds warm and engaging and seems to know her stuff, you’re probably okay. If she sounds guarded or uncertain, you might have reason to worry. Also, says Karpinski, when you get someone on the phone, you can ask specific questions—and listen carefully to the answers. “Ask about the local area,” she suggests. “Ask about the best restaurants, the most unusual attractions, and so forth. If you get quick, natural answers, it’s probably not a scam. If the owner hesitates, or if you hear

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July-August 2012  

The Summer issue of one of the most influential magazines in teh County

July-August 2012  

The Summer issue of one of the most influential magazines in teh County

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