After a number of back and forth emails, I was a bit suspicious. Property in Mexico, owner telephone number in New Jersey, and bank account in Poland. I called Homeaway and the first rep regurgitated what I should do, but wasn't otherwise helpful. I called a second time and was on the call for 30 minutes as the agent did some digging. He came back and said I could assume this was a reliable source. With this, I felt more comfortable wiring funds to this bank account.
WRONG! I found out later on that this was a scam. The property owner's Homeaway profile had been hacked. I emailed and then finally called Homeaway. When Target's database was hacked, they supported their customers. The Trust and Security (ah, no, I don't feel I can trust Homeaway/VRBO/VacationRentals and neither are they secure) supervisor said Homeway would do the same if their databases were "breached." I responded that there is no benefit to scammers to hack their database. The benefit comes in these one-offs.
Homeaway also explained that the original response from the real property owner was that the Christmas week was booked and that the rate per night was $745 (not the original $225/nt on the website). I should have known it was a scam when the scammer came back to say they had a cancellation and the rate was the original $225. I told the supervisor that with dozens of inquiries, I didn't have any recollection of the $745/nt rate quoted and I would not have connected the two. The first thing I did was get on the Homeaway website, look up the property number, saw that Christmas week was indeed available, and that the price quoted was $2,205. Even today, the property is listed as available and at $2,205, and which the supervisor, Martin, agreed should be changed.
So while I was stupid to continue with this transaction despite my suspicions, I am not the only one to blame. The property owner should be keeping their website up-to-date with both the calendar and the pricing, and Homeaway should be doing more to prevent hacking AND they should require their owners to keep information current as well as confidential.
Yet, I am the only one who has to pay, literally. Homeaway refuses to escalate my concerns up the chain of command. The "up to" $1,000 that they give doesn't even begin to pay the cost of most rentals.
Shame on them. Their reputation is mud!
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