Shauna Kattler thought she’d found the ideal rental home in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, for her Christmas vacation: a two-bedroom penthouse condominium with a hot tub and an impossibly perfect view of the Caribbean.
Anthony Lipschitz is the chief executive of iStopover, a site that connects homeowners who have spare rooms to rent with travelers looking for affordable accommodations. With several high-profile cases of vacation rental customers being ripped off — including, ahem, some of my colleagues — I wanted to find out how to avoid becoming a victim.
TripAdvisor is not in the business of long term rentals, but Haley Cline was unaware of this fact. So when a friendly “TripAdvisor-approved owner” emailed her about a spectacularly discounted year-long beach rental, no alarm bells went off. The scam only came into focus after Cline sent her initial $1,721 deposit via Bitcoin to the online predator.
Margot Rowland and her husband just wanted to take their grandchildren on a memorable journey to Paris. So she scoured the HomeAway site and found the perfect vacation home for the family. But as their travel plans were coming together, she made a wire transfer mistake that the bank could not reverse. And now the trip and their $3,000 are in jeopardy.
Her “villa” in the Dominican Republic looked like a real find. It came with its own concierge and a private pool and was only steps away from a rugged Caribbean beach. Best of all, the price was right for Elisabeth Sperry, a veterinarian from Falmouth, Maine: a week for just $3,500, a 25 percent discount from the regular rate.