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Make sure your vacation rental is real | Eyewitness Wants to Know

The right vacation rental could be the difference between your dream vacation or a nightmare trip. How to avoid getting schemed when booking your stay.

SAN ANTONIO — Many of us are looking to get away now that pandemic restrictions are easing. Yet with so many people wanting to vacation, prices for hotels are skyrocketing. It is forcing some vacationers to look elsewhere for a place to stay.

Whether it is surf, sun, sand or just eat, sleep, peace and repeat closer to home on your vacation, you will need a place to stay. Just make sure that rental is real before you book it.

“We’ve heard of people actually showing up and the property is not even there or it’s not even a rental. It’s a real residence,” said Michael Skiba, known as Dr. Fraud.

Skiba said it can make for an unforgettable vacation for all the wrong reasons. It happens even if you do not venture far from home because South Texas is a vacation destination.

“We do see about 43 percent of online lookers encounter a scam. That’s almost half of the time. Those are big numbers,” said Jason Meza of the Better Business Bureau.

First, make sure you are booking through a legitimate rental site like Airbnb or VRBO and not an imposter site.

“They just look exactly like a legitimate website,” said Skiba. “It’s looking to gather your personal information, even your credit card, your security deposit.”

Spelling and grammar errors are clues the website might not be the one you want. No matter where you find your rental online, do this:

“Double check, triple check that the property is an actual listing and that it’s not a home for sale or for rent that has been hijacked,” said Meza. “Doing some things like reverse Google image searches are pretty good because the same image can be duplicated across multiple sites.”

Or it could be a real listing but have a fake description.

“We see a lot of misrepresentations within the house,” Skiba said. “So claiming there are three bedrooms and there’s only two. Or a big one is there is air conditioning when it could just be fans.”

Take time to read the reviews. You might want also pass on the property if the host has only recently started renting. A much lower price than comparable rentals could also be a sign of a scheme.

“If the price seems to be lower than the others, that’s really what’s going to entice someone in,” said Skiba. “We’re seeing those where the host is a pure scammer and they’re just posting properties that once people actually engage, they might lose their security deposit.”

“We all want a bargain, but at what sacrifice?” Meza said.

Plus, pay attention on how you pay.

“Make sure you’re always using a credit card and a powerful credit card that might have fraud alerts,” said Skiba.

Paying any other way should be a red flag.

“Never use cash apps, never use gift cards or wire transfers,” said Meza. “Always stick with a credit card.”

It could mean the difference between your dream vacation and a nightmare trip.

If you have a question for Eyewitness Wants To Know, email us at EWTK@KENS5.com or call 210-377-8647.