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Travel Industry Management: Scam Alert

If you've been around the internet for any period of time, you're well aware of the scams arriving by email informing you of the vast sums of money you have won. Or, if you help the Nigerian Princess move money out of her country, you can have a cut of it.

These scams have permeated the web so much that they have a name: 419 scams (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advance_fee_fraud). 419 is the Nigerian Criminal Code that deals with fraud. Most (but not all) of these scams originate from Nigeria.

If you read the Wikipedia entry linked earlier, you should take away two points:

1. These scams have been around a long time. The originated in the early 80's and were run via letters, faxes, telex.

2. These scams come in ALL shapes and sizes. If a scammer can come up with a way to scam someone, they will try it over the Internet.

While there are countless variations of the 419 scam, I want to explain the version I've seen that targets vacation rental owners. Read on to make sure you don't fall victim to a scam.

Imagine you make a booking for someone who pays you via a cashiers check. They accidentally overpay and when they find out, they ask you to send a refund via Western Union. Guess what? You've just been scammed!

As it turns out, the cashiers check is fake and it often takes your bank weeks to determine that it is fake. By then, the scammer has their money via Western Union, and you are left with nothing from the cashier's check except possibly a fee from your bank and a lesson learned. Good times.

Don't worry - it's pretty easy to protect yourself. You just need to know how these scams work so you know what to look out for.

These scams work like this:

1. The "renter" pays you money (rent)

2. The "renter" ask for some amount of money back. The reasons are endless: Accidental overpayment, medical emergency, they want to cancel the booking.

If they've paid by check, money order, or cashiers check, you simply need to ask your bank to make sure it's cleared and is not a fake before you issue the refund. If the "renter" asks for a refund via Western Union or other wire service, it's a scam.

If you end up in this position, do not refund any money until the bank confirms the check isn't fake. The renter will play on your emotions, telling you they need the money for medical bills or something horrible. Unfortunately, you cannot trust them.

These scams are so common now and so hard to prosecute, that the scammer will likely never be arrested for what they have done. However, if you find a scammer trying to scam you by booking your vacation home, please do the following:

* Cease communications with the scammer

* Notify the FBI here (www.ic3.gov/)

* Notify the vacation rental listing website they used to contact you. That will allow the website to contact other owners that also were contacted by the same individual.

* Notify the scammers email provider. This can usually be done by sending an email to "abuse@" and then putting the domain name for the email provider. For example, [email protected] or [email protected]. The provider will usually shut down that email address which may help other owners.

Jon Minion helps the owners of vacation homes get their vacation home rentals found by travelers looking for travel accommodations at: www.findvacationrentals.com/ Jon also offers marketing advice to vacation rental owners at: www.vacationrentalsindustry.com/blog/

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