Beware: The Craigslist Vacation Rental Scam

My mom always said be cautious when speaking or writing if you’re angry. So I will try and be cautious with this post. Craigslist is essentially an on-line platform for classified ads. If you’re looking for a car or a tennis racket, need a job or looking for help, want to jump on a public forum or sell a bike, Craigslist pretty much has it all. You can also rent a vacation home on Craigslist. This is when I get angry.

Basically, there are scammers that cut and paste photos and descriptions of our homes from the Yonder site (plus other sites) and price the homes much lower than advertised on our site or other legitimate marketing channels like AirBnB, VRBO  FlipKey or Explore Asheville.

The scammer hides behind a unique craigslist email address and will ask for up to 100% of the rental fee to be deposited into their bank account. After the unsuspecting guests makes the deposit….that’s it. You wont hear from the scammer after that. No check-in instructions, no recommended restaurants, hikes or music venues. Your money is gone and you don’t ay recourse.

We’re notified through IFTTT every time any vacation rental is posted on Craigslist in our region so we’re able to safe guard against a Yonder home staying on Craigslist for more than a couple of hours. While the majority of vacation rentals posted are not ours, we do see about 6-10 per month that are, like Upstream Cottage in the image below.

Once we spot one of our homes, we quickly mark it as “prohibited” and it goes off Craigslist.

At any given time there are between 350 and 500 vacation rentals on Craigslist for our area. Some of them may in fact be totally legitimate. If you are going to rent a vacation home on Craigslist or know someone who might, please share. Here’s a few tips that will safeguard your investment:

  1. Ask for a phone # and a real email address in your email. Anyone who does not give you contact info is not customer oriented enough to answer questions beforehand and during your stay. We love calls and emails! It’s an great way to answer questions, get to know your vacation wish lists and make recommendations.
  2. If you do email them and the response seems vague and filled with generic terms like “the item” or “your area,” imagine a red flag going up!
  3. If the nightly rate seems to good to be true, it probably is. Again, I would call and speak with the owner or manager that is advertising on Craigslist. Any owner of management company worthy of your money should be thrilled to get your call.
  4. If the home leads off with a photo a bathroom, be careful. Seriously, we have some amazing bathrooms in our portfolio, but would never use them as the “beauty” shot to entice you to book a Yonder home.

Craigslist is perfectly fine for many transactions, but we just hate the thought of someone who saved their money for a dream vacation in the mountains getting swindled by some faceless con artist.  Please be careful!