(Last Updated On: December 18, 2014)

As more booking sites come online, travelers have uncovered incredible deals, standout properties, and friendly connections who know the local lodging scene. Combined, these pieces create vacation stories that Facebook friends drool over. The growth of options has also come with a growth in fraudulent listings, which means do-it-yourself travelers should proceed with caution.

What are some ways to avoid getting swindled by a fake vacation rental listing?

Pick up the phone

  • Ask for references of previous renters (and contact them!)
  • Ask about online reviews
  • Ask specific questions about the property, neighborhood, destination, etc.

Do your research

  • Search the property online and seek out comments, questions and reviews
  • Cross-reference owners and property name/address/phone with your findings and other websites.
  • Seek out a map view of the address

Trust your gut

After doing your research and picking up the phone, ask yourself: Does everything still seem legitimate? Is the price on target or too good to be true?

Seek out site-specific perks

Some booking websites, such HomeAway and Airbnb, offer secure payment options, while others function simply as message boards.

Watch your wallet

If you decide to book, never pay with cash, wire transfers, or debit cards. Credit card and PayPal payments are typically safer and provide for some recourse, but you’ll still want to explore individual policies on fraud protection.

Skiing, mountain biking, and yes, even booking your next vacation may all come with an element of risk. But a little bit of background work combined with instinct and caution can help keep travelers upright during the day and relieved for the perfect crash pad come evening.