We’ve all heard the stories of vacation rentals that don’t look at all like the photos, or worse, don’t even exist. So if you’re thinking of renting a vacation apartment for your next trip to Paris, and want to make sure that you don’t get scammed, here are a few tips.
First of all, only rent through a reputable local agency with an address and phone number listed on their website (and, ideally, their business license number as well, or SIRET in France). Beware of the “anonymous” ones. They may only be scamming the tax man, not you, but for peace of mind insist at least on this. And verify that the agency is guaranteeing the rental, not just listing the owners info on their site.
If you want to get a better deal by renting direct from an owner, through the many online platforms, there are some precautions to follow:
– NEVER send deposit money via MoneyGram, Western Union, or any other type of money transfer system that can’t be tracked to a personal account. Pay with a credit card or through PayPal so that you can recover your money if there is a dispute.
– Always ask for proof that the person renting you the apartment is really the owner: ask to see ID and a recent electric or telephone bill in their name with the address of the apartment.
– Ask for references and check them. A pain in the ass, yes. But it’s your money and your vacation.
– Google the property and the owner online (you should be able to use street image to see the property’s facade; make sure the windows match).
– Be immediately on guard if the owner’s email is full of bad grammar or odd-sounding English, if the owner isn’t in Paris and asks you to send the money to another city and/or person, and other telltale signs like ads that don’t match the photos. Another article on the subject can be found here.
– I have heard many people say NOT to ever send a copy of your ID to an owner because then they will use this as their own fake ID. Again, if you are renting through an agency, you won’t have to deal with any of these issues.
You Can Be Scammed on Airbnb , Too
Most prudent people stopped using sites with unverified listings like Craigslist a long time ago, but amazingly (and sadly), there are a lot of articles about scammers using AirBnB, too. Here are just a few of the latest ones:
Personally, I have rented apartments direct from owners without problems, but I always had a back-up plan (the nearest hotel with an available room), wasn’t traveling with all of my family for the first time in a country where I don’t speak the local language, and didn’t send such a huge deposit that it would end my vacation if I had been scammed.
I don’t want you to become paranoid, just a bit more street smart. Of course, that’s good advice for traveling in general. 🙂