Watch out for vacation rental scams

Jun. 10—AARP is warning travelers to be cautious of too-good-to-be-true deals on vacation rentals and car hires this summer.

"Nothing ruins a vacation faster than realizing your booking was a sham," said Mary Bach, AARP Pennsylvania's Volunteer and Chair of the Consumer Issues Task Force.

"We see a lot of advertisements for luxurious properties and premium car rentals at unrealistically low rates. It's crucial to do your due diligence before making any payments."

Vacation rental scams often involve properties listed with enticingly low rates and exceptional amenities. Scammers may hijack legitimate listings or create entirely fictitious ones using stolen images.

They typically push for quick deals and upfront payments, only for travelers to discover the truth upon arrival.

Car rental scams also surge during high travel seasons, with fraudsters enticing travelers with very low rates and insisting on advance payments, often through untraceable methods like gift cards or prepaid debit cards, leaving travelers stranded.

David Kalinoski, Associate State Director of Outreach for AARP Pennsylvania, emphasized the importance of verification.

"Before booking, confirm the property exists through tools like Google Street View and insist on a detailed rental agreement. For car rentals, Use the company's website or customer service number."

Other tips to protect yourself include: researching the property, owner, and travel deals thoroughly; never pay by wire transfer, prepaid debit card, or gift card; pay by credit card for added security and potential recourse; and verify all terms in writing, including cancellation and refund policies.

"We urge travelers to be cautious and report suspicious offers," Kalinoski said.

"By staying informed and cautious, you can ensure that your vacation is memorable for all the right reasons."