Don’t Trust Your Vacation to a Stranger

It’s been a distressing development on our beautiful island, but if we can prevent this unfortunate occurrence from happening to you, we want to spread the news. With the explosion of vacation rental listings on internet websites has come an increase in fraud. Of course, most property owners advertising their home online are honest. But there are an increasing number of scams out there and the risk is not negligible. Sometimes the property being rented does not exist. Sometimes, it has been rented twice – once legitimately, once by a scammer. Other times, the property has been misrepresented and is not up to the renter’s standards. In every case, money has been lost and/or plans for a relaxing vacation have turned into a stress-filled nightmare.

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At ResorticaHawaii.com, we’ve seen the damage firsthand, and have stepped in to help whenever we can. We recently assisted a number of frustrated travelers who found themselves scammed and in need of real accommodations at short notice, often at high season. In most cases, all that can be done is to report the crime to the authorities, and try to help the victimized vacationer salvage their holiday. Here are just a few examples:

  • We have fielded over 30 inquiries since mid-December from stranded vacationers who found out the unit was “sold” or “doubled booked.” Of these, eight alone were “booked” with overlapping dates over Christmas and New Year’s travel dates. The individual — an unlicensed manager — called the guests as late as the day before they left for their Christmas vacation to say it was double booked and he was sorry. To date, many of these people have not received a refund and are awaiting assistance from their credit card companies. After numerous complaints, VRBO has finally pulled the listing.

  • A family of eight from Alaska, two adults and six children, booked a unit on Craigslist for $5,000 for the month of January. The pictures on the listing were just what they were looking for. The “manager” required that they deposit via bank wire into his account since they lived on the mainland. Being cautious, she Googled the address on her agreement to make sure it was legitimate. When they arrived at the address the condominium complex did exist, but the unit number did not. The police could only file a report – they were most certainly out of the $5,000. We had just brought on a new unit that we were able to fast track into our system so they could check-in and enjoy their vacation.

  • I spoke with one lady who thought she had a 30 night stay booked in a very nice resort condo in Mauna Lani. It seemed like great deal – 30 days for $3,200 all inclusive. After taxes and cleaning fees, that comes to $87 per night in the peak season. Of course it was too good to be true. Luckily she paid by credit card and will get her money back, but her 30 day trip was reduced to 9 days because of availability at the Mauna Lani Resort, and she had to pay market rate.

Here are a few tips to make sure you are not the victim of vacation rental fraud:

  • Hawaii has very specific rules for property management. If an individual or company is managing property for more than one owner, they must be licensed. You can verify the company is licensed in accordance with Hawaii State Law at https://pvl.ehawaii.gov/pvlsearch/

  • Pay by major credit card. Some individuals or companies charge a “Processing” or “Admin” fee or offer a “cash discount” to pay by check or bank wire. Save the “cash discount” for a less risky purchase and use a credit card for the protection of your purchase.

  • Don’t be shy! Ask if the property is listed for sale or in a hardship situation (pre-foreclosure, foreclosure, delinquent taxes or delinquent association dues). The AOAO/HOA can withhold the use of common facilities for non-payment of dues. A management company is positioned to relocate a booking if the property sells or is foreclosed – individuals are rarely in that position. We have certainly had our share of last minute bookings from guests who arrive on island only to find out the property was foreclosed, common areas are off limit for non-payment of dues or utilities are disconnected noticed on the front door.

  • Read the contract and ask questions. Beware of all inclusive pricing without the separation of taxes and cleaning fees.

  • Verify the owner has a GET/TAT license number. It should be on all advertising.

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

A vacation in paradise should be just that. For peace of mind, always book with a trusted, respected, professional rental management company. ResorticaHawaii.com has been welcoming visitors to the Big Island with aloha spirit for over seven years. We have a local office right in the Waikoloa Beach Resort and are available in person and on call to do whatever it takes to make your holiday great. All of our carefully chosen properties are professionally managed and maintained, and our extensive repeat clientele is a testament to their satisfaction.

A Hawaiian vacation is too important to put in the hands of strangers. Let us make sure your holiday goes off without a hitch.

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Welcome to our world.... the world of ResorticaHawaii.com.
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