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Booking a vacation rental? Here are tips to avoid scammers

Posted at 7:46 AM, Jun 04, 2021

(WXYZ) — Are you planning your next big trip or family vacation? Beware of scammers.

I went to an expert to learn how to spot some of the most common travel scams so you don’t waste your money.

Have you ever heard of kissandfly.com? The site touts the “Best flights and fares for you!”

Last month, a metro Detroiter reported the site to the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker.

The victim was from the 48167 zip code – encompassing Northville, Novi, Farmington Hills, Lyon Township area.

The individual wrote, “I bought a ticket to Europe searching through Skyscanner.” They went on to post in the complaint, "After two days, they have canceled one of my flights, no alternative was provided, and I can not get my refund.”

The total amount lost, according to the complaint, was $2,150.00!

I reached out to Kissandfly.com for a response, and at the time of this report, I had not yet heard back.

Melanie Duquesnel – the president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula – recommends you only book flights on websites familiar to you.

If you Google kiss&fly, the site pops up, but just below that, you find a slew of reviews warning you not to use it.

So, what is the biggest scam the local BBB is seeing right now when it comes to travel?

“The biggest scam is where you’re going to rent,” said Duquesnel.

It’s called the Vacation Rental Con,where you’re lured into booking a house or a condo only to find out the property isn’t actually for rent, doesn’t exist, or is significantly different than what was pictured.

Even reputable sites like Airbnb and Vrbo have had to deal with this problem according to Duquesnel.

“Somebody can place a property on their website, make it look like as legitimate as possible, but at the end of the day, it’s actually just a shell of a listing,” said Duquesnel.

Duquesnel shared four tips to avoid a vacation rental cons.

1. TALK WITH THE OWNER BY PHONE

Talk to the homeowner by phone -- not just through email. That way you can ask detailed questions about the property and local attractions. If they give vague answers, that’s a red flag.

2. LOOK UP THE ADDRESS ONLINE

Look up the address online using Google Street View to confirm the property exists and matches the pictures you saw.

3. ALWAYS PAY WITH A CREDIT CARD

Always pay with a credit card – not a debit card. Don’t wire money or use a pre-paid card. That’s like sending cash.

“My sister-in-law was scammed out of a vacation rental because she sent a check. She got down there, and that house didn’t exist,” Duquesnel explained.

If you pay with a credit card, charges can be disputed.

4. CONSIDER TRAVEL INSURANCE

Consider travel insurance. Duquesnel said sites like Vrbo allow you to buy insurance.

If you get to the rental and find out you were scammed, Vrbo will work to find some place comparable as quickly as possible if you have the insurance.

5. WATCH OUT FOR “SMISHING”

If you’ve been searching online for vacations and all of a sudden get a text on your phone about a great deal, ignore that.

Duquesnel said that’s called “smishing.” Scammers somehow get your number and try to woo you in order to get your credit card information. Don’t fall for it.

Check out the BBB’s website for reviews and complaints and use their scam tracker to report any problems.