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    by mkataoka Fodor's Editor | Posted on Nov 28, 16 at 01:31 PM
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VRBO Security - Scam Alert

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I wanted to let everyone know of a situation involving VRBO.com that I just experienced. I have used VRBO successfully many times in the past and have always been pleased with the experience. So in trying to rent a private home for an upcoming trip to Bali for late September/October, I confidently sent several inquiries thru VRBO.com. All were promptly responded to by owners and property managers. On one particular inquiry for Rumah Cinta in Ubud, the person corresponding with me was signing her emails as the owner. I didn't think anything was amiss. I did try to call the owner's cell phone number that was listed on the VRBO.com several times. Without getting a response, I just assumed the owner was traveling and was unable to return my call. The reviews of the property on VRBO.com were very positive. Via email, the "owner" and I agreed on a price for my extended stay. She requested I send the money via a bank transfer. I protested but she said that because I was coming in less than 4 weeks, this was at "their convenience". The bank details that she sent me included the name "Ketut" which is the name of someone listed on the VRBO.com site that watches over the property.
With trepidation I transferred the full amount from my bank to theirs. Then... nothing. I contacted VRBO.com this past weekend indicating that I was concerned I had been scammed. I had also purchased their well advertised "CAREFREE RENTAL GUARANTEE" insurance policy which identifies "internet fraud" as one of the 4 issues the policy protects your payment from. Their response to my inquiry was that in fact I had been scammed but blamed it on the lack of security of the owner's email accounts. They then followed with a response that the policy I bought didn't apply or protect me in this case. Frankly, I'm not sure which is worse - the fraud of the internet scam or the policy that protects against internet fraude but not this scenario? How can VRBO.com be sure that the breach was with the owner's email account and not their own site? This must be happening to others.
I've done everything I can at this point, including kicking myself for doing a wire transfer. My funds are unrecoverable unless VRBO's insurance policy kicks in. I have worked with my bank to protect my accounts, filed a police report and also filed a report with www.ic3.gov. Shouldn't VRBO.com have more liability than just saying the owner's account was compromised? How is the average renter able to trust any inquiry sent thru the VRBO site? VRBO.com, a division of Homeaway which is a publicly traded company at $40/share on today's market, making lots of money for their shareholders and in fees being a legit intermediary between rentors and potential rentees? They've increased their value by offering hesitant renters the possibility of safety and confidence with their insurance polices. However, the policy (I paid $40 for my "Carefree Rental Guarantee Policy") means nothing when there's an actual breach?
I'm now scrapping my entire trip because of the vulnerability I feel. There are so many great property owners out there. What a shame.

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