What is a vacation rental scam?

With the exponential growth of property listing platforms and vacation rental (holiday rental) services, new business opportunities have appeared for fraudsters. From fake advertisements to dubious listings (presenting an inaccurate portrayal of the property and features), scammers now excel in crafting elaborate and ingenious vacation rental scams.

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Unfortunately fraud and vacation rental scam is spiking in the travel industry.

Why do vacation rental scams happen?

Since property listing platforms have a fairly simple screening process, and a lack of robust KYC checks, fraudsters are easily able to exploit gaps in security. Tech-savvy bad actors are therefore able to use these platforms for illicit financial gain, and to steal personal data. Such fraudulent activity represents a risk to the reputation of the listing platforms.

Why fraud is spiking in the online travel business.

According to Forter’s Ninth Annual Fraud Index report in 2020, hotels encountered a 139% increase in fraud attacks compared to 2018. As travel agencies and the accommodation rental business is shifting from bricks and mortar toward online platforms, fraud is now harder to detect without the right tools. Indeed, without technology to help with the vetting process, it is almost an impossible task to screen every single property listing and user, given the time and resources it takes to do so manually

How do vacation rental scams happen?

Online vacation rental websites can represent a risk for both property owners and customers. Vacation rental scams can take various forms:

  • A fake listing, with pictures sourced online and filled with phony details. Although fake, scammers can create very convincing listings, and, as reservations are often immediate, the money will be long gone before the customer finds out;
  • In some cases, scammers can hijack legitimate listings and replicate them on other platforms to collect payments. As soon as they are flagged, scammers disappear with the money, without the owner even knowing;
  • In other cases, the ‘guest’ could be a bad actor who defrauds the owner by sending malicious links to collect personal information, which is later used for other fraudulent activities.

How to identify vacation rental fraudsters.

Red flags are sometimes hard to spot, but there are signs that can help identify fraudsters:

  1. One of the biggest warning signs is when someone asks you to leave the listing platform and use a third-party channel to make a payment. Most of the time, it will be combined with off-record conversations, conducted outside the dedicated chat feature, in order to avoid being flagged by keyword monitoring software;
  2. Some scams are called “too good to be true” for a reason. If a listing offers an outstanding property, with great amenities for a low price, maybe it is because the opportunity is indeed too good to be true and should be avoided;
  3. Other signs may also give it away: poor writing and grammatical errors in the property descriptions, suspiciously positive reviews, or no reviews at all, or realtors asking for far too much personal data while booking.

Hospitality service providers have an obligation to implement a secure framework of tools and technology to protect their business and customers, and to stay ahead of the competition.

Automated Identity Verification can safeguard bookings and prevent vacation rental scam.

How to avoid holiday rental scams as a travel portal owner.

As a listing platform or booking services provider, protecting customers and securing transactions should be a top priority. To do so, businesses must adopt strong screening procedures, whether they’re realtors renting properties or travelers looking for accommodation or services. As well as being secure, it’s also important for the consumer experience to be smooth and quick.

Thanks to automated ID checks via IDnow AutoIdent, confirming an identity has never been easier.

  • Consumers can confirm their identity through their smartphone in just a few minutes.
  • With just a selfie and a government-issued identity document, IDnow can conduct both identity document and biometric verifications.
  • AutoIdent also runs liveness checks, adding another layer of security and preventing identity spoofing.

Safeguard your holiday rental portal with automated IDV.

IDnow AutoIdent verifies documents anytime and anywhere. It supports 30+ languages in 195 countries and leverages modern AI and machine learning technology to ensure secure identity verification, backed by a superior user experience.

While staying compliant with the most recent KYC regulations, the screening process allows the customer and the property owner to feel secure. As AutoIdent is customizable, it allows businesses to adapt its screening process to certain criteria. For example, dubious phone numbers with a country code different from the realtor’s declared nationality may raise eyebrows and thus trigger a screening process.

AI-powered Identity Verification helps to prevent holiday rental scam.

All FAQs about holiday rental scam.

How to report home rental scams?

Europol has identified holiday rental scams as a trend and lists several signs to look out for. If someone has fallen victim to such fraud, Europol recommends keeping all evidence, and reporting it to the local police. In the U.S., a specific website has been established by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to report frauds.

How do you know if a vacation rental is legit?

As a customer, you may trust certain listing platforms over others, but there are always gaps in security that can be exploited, which is why it’s important to recognize the telltale signs of a scam listing. Poor grammar, asking for money transfers outside the transaction process, miscommunication and other inappropriate demands can all help in the identification of scams.

What exactly is an identity verification with KYC?

Verifying one’s identity through a robust KYC procedure requires collecting one or two government-issued identification documents with photographs, as well as proof of address. Another security layer can be added through liveness checks to confirm the person registering corresponds to the documents submitted. KYC procedures may also involve due diligence and continuous monitoring to assess and prevent risks. 

How can IDnow enhance your KYC process?

Digitizing KYC procedures while keeping it cost-efficient, rapid, and robust is a thorough job. IDnow offers KYC services in a secure and compliant fashion, allowing clients to focus on their core business. In addition to AI and machine learning based identification solution AutoIdent, IDnow’s customers can leverage our identification specialists to perform facial verification and liveness checks to prevent identity spoofing.

Automated User’s Check

Ensure smooth experiences for your vacation rental site.

By remaining vigilant and doing your due diligence when onboarding new users for your vacation rental site, you can help protect yourself and renters against holiday rental scams via strong KYC processes, powered by automated Identity Verification.

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