Vacation Rental: Owner


Vacation Home Rental Scam: How It Works

(with video below) Some vacation home rentals are truly phenomenal, but beware of the newest trap: the Vacation Rentals By Owner or For Rent by Owner scam! Imagine this: You are ready to have the vacation of your dreams and, hoping to save some money, look for rental properties in the city you are going to. After researching online for days, you find the ideal property: beautiful house, close to the beach, everything is included, and – most importantly – an affordable price!

You are smart and actually research the existence of the property. It does exist and you might even find it listed on some other "Rent by Owner" sites, with great authentic reviews, from real people. Happy, you contact the owner, close the deal, and wire the money. You go on your vacation, but when you get to the house, there are other tourists in it! How did that happen?

Watch the video below to see the Vacation Home Rentals scam exposed:

Vacation Rentals Scam Video

What happened was the scammer took the initial postings of the vacation property and re-posted it himself on other websites, putting his own phone number or e-mail, as contact. You paid for a real property, but to the wrong person.


How to avoid the Vacation Rentals by Owner scam:

Very tough, but doable. First, call the owner, instead of emailing him. When you do that, make sure you have prepared a few detailed questions about the neighborhood. Research what's in the area before the call and ask the owner, fake or real, about specific shops, institutions, or buildings close by.

For example, if you found that there is a hospital on the next block, ask him how far away is the closest hospital.


How to report the Vacation Rentals by Owner scam:

Make your family and friends aware of this scam by sharing it on social media using the buttons provided. You can also officially report the scammers to the Federal Trade Commission using the link below:

Report To The FTC Here

On the other hand, websites like (Vacation Rental By Owner) have great tips when it comes to protecting yourself. On its website, VRBO states the following:

"It is very unusual that an owner will reserve a property for you without a deposit and typically they will expect full payment BEFORE YOU ARRIVE. Remember that the owner is turning over to you property that is typically worth hundreds of times the weekly rental rate. Since they normally only have one, or maybe a few properties to rent, when they reserve it for your use, they will most likely have to turn away other renters wanting to rent during the same time period.

The owner needs to ensure that you intend to occupy the property during the time interval you are reserving. This is the reason they ask for your deposit.

We recommend that you verify a vacation home owner's legitimacy PRIOR TO SUBMITTING YOUR DEPOSIT.


Here are some suggestions on how to verify ownership.

1. Ask the owners for referrals from previous renters.

2. If the property is a part of a homeowners association, contact the association to verify that the person you are corresponding with is indeed an owner.

3. Ask for the name of the company who does the maintenance or cleaning and contact them for verification. You might also wish to inquire regarding the condition of the property.

4. Ask for references from anyone else who services the property. For example, pool service, snow removal, etc…

5. Many of our listings include reviews of the vacation rental. These reviews can be posted by both the owner and/or past renters of the property. By referencing these reviews, you can get a better sense of the vacation rental and its amenities. To view reviews, please refer to the "Traveler Reviews" section below the listing.


6. Remember the old saying, "if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is." If a listing has beautiful photos but the price is much lower than their competitors, you should wonder why. If a listing is much bigger than properties in the same area, you should wonder why. Make sure the amenities seem "normal" for the area where the property is located.

7. Prior to sending any money to an owner or providing a credit card number, ALWAYS request and receive a completed rental agreement or contract. Be sure it specifies the dates you will be staying in the property, the cost of the rental, any deposits, taxes, cleaning fees, and thecancellation and refund policies.  Without a signed rental agreement DO NOT consider the rental to be yours. If you do and something unforeseen happens, you may have little recourse in getting your funds returned. If an owner prefers not to use a contract or written agreement, find one that will.

8. Your best protection can come by working with property owners that accept credit cards.  First, there are certain protections that the banks put in place and not everyone qualifies to accept credit cards. Secondly, using your credit card does provide you with certain remedies that are unavailable via other forms of payment. Note, paying via PayPal may not provide you the same level of protection that paying directly via credit card provides. Avoid listings that demand quick payment via a wire service like Western Union or bank transfer.


9. If you provide us with the listing number of the property in question, we will be happy to provide you with the date that the owner listed the property with our service. You can also find this information at the bottom of each listing, below the last picture. The longer someone has been with our service, the more likely that they are indeed legitimate.

10. Protect yourself by registering your trip with our Carefree Rental Guarantee. This provides up to $10,000 coverage if the rental home is in foreclosure or bankruptcy, if the owner double-books the rental or if the property is misrepresented. 

By following the above recommendations, you can protect yourself and ensure your family has a unique and affordable vacation experience."

Great tips from VRBO, we hope you can have a great trip.

How to protect yourself more:

If you want to be the first to find out the most notorious scams every week, feel free to subscribe to the Scam Detector newsletter here. You'll receive periodical emails and we promise not to spam. Last but not least, use the Comments section below to expose other scammers.

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selma hrynchuk
Selma HrynchukSenior Editor at Scam Detector Media, Selma is a fraud prevention specialist with a wealth of experience in private investigations and collaborations with law enforcement. A captivating public speaker, Selma educates audiences about scams and personal safety. Through her insightful writing, she exposes criminals and shares essential tips for staying secure. Selma is a dedicated guardian against fraud, committed to unmasking deception and promoting integrity.

30 thoughts on “Vacation Rental: Owner”

  1. Help!
    My husband and I rented 3 rooms for spring break last March. The virus came and we switch dates to April 2021.
    I call this passed week and they switched one of the rooms that sleeps 6 to 2. This won’t fit my family.
    We have contracts for both dates and did not change rooms and paid deposits.
    I have searching for another place but unfortunately everything is booked.
    Do you have any suggestions?
    Thank you

  2. Here is the full conversation withe the scammer who claimed to be the owner of a beautiful house posted on Craigslist

    I sent this guy a message saying i am interested in the property.The response included pictures that you can’t see, and this message. There was no introduction. Here it is:

    Below are the attached pictures of the property. Thanks i Appreciate your interest in my property. The property can be obtained at the rate of $250 per night. Full Broadband Internet, WiFi Wireless Internet, Washer, Dryer, Linens Provided and more.You are required to make a Refundable Deposit of $300 as security fee, the refundable fee will be given back to you on your check out day. The security fee is for possible damages at the property.

    As soon as you have the full rent fee paid together with the $300 Refundable Security fee, The property will be reserved down for your chosen date and the rental confirmation receipt will be issue to you. Let me know if you are interested on the property so that i can forward you the rental booking terms and the agreement form in order to complete with the necessary information and you will have to return it to complete your reservation.

    Check the below quotes for the cost of nights you intent to stay in the property.

    Rental Rate: 4 BEDROOMS= $250 / TOTAL DEPOSIT FEE= $1050
    Payment Method: Bank Transfer

    My response:

    On Thu, May 24, 2018, 2:51 PM <my email> wrote:

    Thank you for providing the pictures.

    Regarding your fee , I believe you’re off in your calculations . Also, I’d like to know who you are to authentic your legitimacy. Bank transfer?
    Check the below quotes for the cost of nights you intent to stay in the property.

    Rental Rate: 4 BEDROOMS= $250 / TOTAL DEPOSIT FEE= $1050
    Payment Method: Bank Transfer

    Then he responded:

    From: Vacation Rental <>
    Sent: Thursday, May 24, 2018 9:58 AM
    To: me

    Sorry for the typo and I actually meant $750 and there are other options of payment. Of course it is legitimate and you have nothing to be worried about as your reservation is safe with me Dianne.

    My response:

    On Thu, May 24, 2018, 3:02 PM <my email> wrote:

    You still have not identified yourself.

    The response I got:

    Am the owner of the property dianne and that is my form of payment or credit card. If you dont feel comfortable you can come in person and book the property. Am available

    My response:

    On Thu, May 24, 2018, 3:12 PM <my email> wrote:

    You’re a scam and I’m reporting you. We’re done!

    Last response:

    What are you saying? How am a scam? I told you if you are local you can show up and book the property in person. I seems not to understand you.

  3. Dianne T. Garafola

    "Owner" who will not identify himself after several requests, requires a bank transfer, has poor grammar and math skills, requested to meet.


    4br – SCAM from Chandfrank1 gmail (High Rockies, Steamboat Springs, Charleston, Orange County)

    11 Kings Court

    THIS MAN CLAIMS TO OWN PROPERTIES THAT HE CAN RENT: He takes your money and there is no property for you to enjoy!

    Frank Chand
    Diana Chand


    Stylish, Spacious, WiFi, 3 HD TVs, 3 Blocks to Gondola, Heated …
    plz only me : chandfrank01 This stylish and spacious 2nd floor condominium is located in the heart of the Mountain Village. Great location, less than 1 mile to the mountain and 3 miles to downtown. Newly remodeled with new carpet, tile, and granite countertops, this property has everything you need for a …

    kick back in this family- friendly Retreat with mountain views …
    plz only email me : chandfrank1. This beautiful, family-friendly condo is 6 min. from I 70 exit, 10-20 min. from 5 ski resorts, shopping, & dining! Located on free Summit Shuttle bus route to ski resorts, shopping, & dining in Summit County. Nearby hiking! Panoramic views! Open living/dining area. Full kitchen.

    Downtown Charmer: Walk to: Beach, Main St, Pacific City – vacation ……/6526888691.html
    Mar 11, 2018 – plz only email me : chandfrank1. This house is perfectly located 2 blocks to Main Street in Downtown Huntington Beach. You are close to the Downtown Huntington Beach restaurants, bars and shopping and the new Pacific City but far enough away without the noise and congestion.

    Downtown Romantic:grt location, jetted tub,inviting porch pvt ……/6526854021.html
    plz only email me : chandfrank1 This is the perfect ‘Home Away from Home’ in Charleston. Located within the ‘Historical District’ of this river bound peninsula town, you will be able to easily walk to all its treasured sites. This ‘Romantic Hideaway’ is on the second floor of a traditional porch fronted Charleston …
    do NOT contact me with unsolicited services or offers
    post id: 6543760718 posted: 2 days ago updated: 2 days ago email to friend ? best of [?]
    do NOT contact me with unsolicited services or offers
    post id: 6545476912 posted: 19 minutes ago email to friend ? best of [?]

  5. Stephen Greener

    We are looking to book an apartment with a firm called Apartments in Ibiza. Although we have contacted them via email. Many of the signs listed above seem to be true. ie. Deposit required via bank transfer or otherwise a credit card through PayPal (unprotected).
    Has anyone heard of this company? There are posit e messages on trip advisor for them, but I guess these may equally not be genuine??

  6. We recently only got part of our deposit back because the cleaning lady claimed she had to do an extra $170 plus the $150 for a cleaning fee. Our condo was 940 square feet, with us not even using the second bedroom. We laughed because we never even sat on the bed. I left a note it was clean. Apparently I ran the dishwasher before we left and didn’t empty it,I left a jar in it it that was a peanut butter. I recycle and truly in haste left it in there. She also said we left a plunger dirty, which was true because of a plumbing issue, next time we’ll call a plumber. That too we were guilty of. I washed the kitchen throw rugs, tablecloth on the table put the sheets I. The washer, but didn’t turn it on, that what the last house told us. She claimed we left a glass of grape juice in a glass in the cupboard,but we never bought any. She said there was peanut butter on the counter and pop splattered on the wall. If we saw that we would of cleaned it. How much do we need to do before we leave? Do you clean so the cleaning lady doesn’t have too? We are next year sitting in the car and seeing how long the next one is actually in there. We felt scammed. The owner lived elsewhere so he had to take her word.

  7. Does anyone have any info on NJ Rentals By Owner? We attempted to list with them and put in credit card for fee as well as the other site that they could get the information from (service they supposedly provide). After trying to email them they responded that they could not pull info from the particular site that we use however, never reached out to us to advise but did process the charge. I have email them for the 4th time today and cannot seem to get a response. Just wondering if we were scanned as property owners.

  8. Sea Ranch Vacation Rental Owner

    We have a vacation rental posted on VRBO. I regularly check our website but one day noticed an unusual flyer posted as a photo on my listing. I was shocked because a scammer hacked my account and published a flyer that said "Anyone interested in renting the house should contact "" They used the VRBO logo on the flyer they posted to make it look official. They wanted renters to contact them via email and pay them direct. Regularly check your website to ensure someone has not hacked your account to steal from you. I hope this warning helps because scammer are getting real bold.

  9. I found SCAM. They asked to book on the website, but there is no normal booking method: credit card / PayPal.
    Just an invoice sent from their email asking for wire transfer to an Italian bank account (Fake bank account too).

  10. Got scammed on apparently scammer did exactly what was stated above… "What happened was the scammer took the initial postings of the vacation property and re-posted it himself on other websites, putting his own phone number or e-mail, as contact. You paid for a real property, but to the wrong person. Now I am out of a vacation home and over 5grand. The website is now telling me that I need to contact the homeowner in reference to the problem. Are there any lawyers out there that can tell me whom I should be going after???? This is insane

  11. Watch out for a craigslist ad for a mini mansion vacation rental at 80% off in Phoenix with 3 or 4 bedrooms and bathrooms, a theater room and edge pool. They claim someone backed out last minute. They want $300 or $399/ night along with a $200 cleaning fee and $1000 deposit. They claim the deposit will be returned in 1-2 days, but it won’t. The house will be unlocked, filthy and practically empty. After they send you the address and code (after you have paid, of course) they will not reply to anymore of your text, emails, etc.

  12. Lauren Sepin tried to rent 224 Orchid Tree Lane, Palm Springs, CA. Luckily it just sounded too good to be true, and then I found your web site.

  13. BEWARE – Forth Morgan Alabama – Lauren Sepin tried to rent 2589 Ponce Deleon Ct Gulf Shores, AL to our family. Just reported this couple to FBI and made bank aware of their scam.

  14. Thank you so much to all who posted here about Lauren Sepin. You saved me from making a huge mistake. She posted a vacation rental for Bethany Beach and was using her name and Morris Sepin. They sent a rental contract that looked very primitive but telling me to send my deposit directly to a bank account made me suspicious. After googling their name, I found this site. Please beware of this scammer and thanks again for the posts!

  15. I too "almost" got scammed by them! I started to get suspicious and after they requested that I deposit the rental fee into their account, I was convinced. I let them know that I know too.


  17. David and Lauren Sepin? I have been going back and forth with them through email for a couple of weeks, most recently today. Anybody have anymore information on them???

  18. Who posted the scam about Lauren Sepin? I need to talk to you!!!
    Please help me- I have some questions for you

  19. Got scammed in huntington beach california paid in advance 800$ by check had some doubts should have went with instinct but scammer who went by name jesus and Lauren sepin gave me referrals which replied positive they also had bank account with bank of America, when I got to location house was occupied by family living there .live and learn

  20. Just about sent 500.00 to someone in Utah only to google his name and saw a report on scams. So glad I did my homework. I just wanted you to know not everyone on VRBO is who they say they are.

  21. To this website manager and to all who responds…thank you so much! I ALMOST got scammed by Lauren and "Jones." Sepin. They were attempting to rent out a "blue cottage" in Nashville, TN! They wanted all the money deposited into their account. Luckily I googled their names and this ite popped up..thx!

  22. ad put on Gumtree and trovit for flat to rent by owner. Everthing looks real, websites, tracking codes, reference numbers. The tracking company used is royal trans logistics which is actually a company based out of Ghana. They are extremely good with their stories and proof. be careful. His name is George. email has a partner in Pretoria named Lora.

    The ad was for 66 Coral Road blouberg.

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