Although it’s been a mild winter people still get itchy to head out for a ski vacation or a tropical one. Many people are searching online classifieds like Craigslist, eBay, newspapers and real estate listings for vacation rentals.
The most suspect site is Craigslist. I’m fully engaged in Craigslist and continually receive scammy communications from supposed buyers. This means scammers are on the site as buyers and sellers full time.
Certainly there are plenty of legitimate ads for vacation rentals however many are suspect. I rented out an apartment I own in the past and a Craigslist scammer set up a duplicate ad with my photos and everything and cut my price in half.
If you choose to engage in a rental and a security deposit is required it is best that you visit the property and hand deliver a check. If you request to visit the property and are denied then the ad is more than likely fraud.
If the property is hundreds or thousands of miles away and visiting isn’t an option then there is a much higher risk. In these circumstances never wire money as there is very little recourse. Using a credit card is a little safer, but no guarantees. Here is where the honor system comes in. Otherwise your best bet is to deal with a real travel site with positive reviews.
Google the person, their email, the title of the ad and/or property you are considering renting. If something negative pops up, beware. If the property address doesn’t exist, beware.
Your best bet is to search listings on local real-estate sites. A licensed Realtor is 1000 times safer than blindly using Craigslist.