The following post was written by Evolve Travel Advisor, Grace Scamurra. Grace speaks with travelers seven days a week, and has learned first-hand what types of red flags homeowners should be looking out for when confirming bookings.
You can learn more about what our Travel Advisor team by clicking here to watch our Meet The Team videos.
Though a great majority of travelers will respect your second home and comply with your policies, unfortunate cases sometimes happen. You may have heard the stories: guests throwing massive parties, trashing and damaging properties, or even stealing from the home.
The only thing better than being prepared for a disruptive guest is knowing how to prevent them from booking in the first place.
Here at Evolve, we have an entire team of Travel Advisors dedicated to screening suspicious travelers and ensuring that only trustworthy guests check in to our homeowners’ properties. Working on the Travel Advisor team, I’ve learned exactly what red flags to look for when guests make a booking request and I wanted to share them with you.
Keep in mind that just one of these red flags is not necessarily a cause for concern. Every trip, traveler, and vacation rental is situational. However, if you notice two or more of these red flags on a booking, we recommend additional screening.
Do the names match up?
One of the first and most important steps Evolve takes in verifying the traveler is checking that the name on the credit card matches the name on the booking. This helps guarantee that the intended traveler has given full consent to pay for the rental and is doing so out of his or her own pocket.
It’s common to see matching last names with varying first names, such as John Doe’s credit card paying for Jane Doe’s booking. This is usually a spouse, sibling, or another close relative who plans to travel with the booker and is very rarely a fraudulent case. But what if John Doe’s credit card is linked to Suzie Q’s booking?
A simple solution is to reach out to the guest prior to check in to clarify who is planning to pay for and stay at your property. At Evolve, we ask for verbal consent and a valid photo ID from both parties.
Is the guest traveling locally?
Fraudulent travelers are more likely to travel locally. Plus, large, local groups of adults practically scream “party!”. To keep fraud at bay, and to protect your home from any blowout ragers, we simply reach out to the guest and verify the reason for their visit.
Of course, there are harmless reasons for someone to book a vacation rental within their own city, such as home repairs, hosting family in town, or attending a local event. Speaking directly with a guest about his or her intentions can help you assess the situation and know that they’ll treat your second home with care.
Did the guest book last minute?
Most vacationers book their trips ahead of time so they can create itineraries, book tours, and secure transportation. Fraudulent travelers tend to do the opposite: they book the very last minute.
Overwhelmingly, most fraudulent travelers book within two weeks of their anticipated check in date. For bookings requested within that time frame, and especially those in which the traveler is spending a lot of money, we recommend taking just a few moments to do some additional screening.
Does the credit card match the booking name? Are the travelers coming in from out of town? If so, they are likely just looking for a quick getaway! If red flags pop up in other areas, we recommend digging deeper.
It’s important to note that just because last-minute bookings with a high price tag are more likely than others to be fraudulent, it doesn’t mean they always are. Last minute trips happen all the time, spawned either from emergencies or spontaneity.
Did the guest ignore your house policies?
When deciding to turn your second home into a vacation rental, you undoubtedly laid down some ground rules about what is and isn’t allowed. Your boundaries are important. When guests book with intentions to ignore them, that could be an early sign of trouble.
Potential guests often leave a message along with their booking request. If a traveler says “we’ll be bringing our 80-pound Golden Retriever” to your home that clearly states “No Pets Allowed,” this traveler is likely not a great fit for your home (trust me, we’ve seen it). Other common cases of neglecting the house policies are groups who exceed your maximum occupancy, ignore “Not Suitable for Children” warnings, and so on.
The best way to handle this situation is to reach out to the traveler and let them know that your policies are firm and are in place for a reason. Guests may cancel their booking, but don’t worry! This will open up your calendar to make room for guests who will be respectful of your guidelines and create an overall more positive experience for everyone.
Are the guests underage?
Ah, the classic prom party. While not all young travelers are disruptive or destructive, we’ve found that a majority of our homeowners feel more comfortable when the guests in their home are of a certain age. At Evolve, our minimum booking age is 25.
Most underage travelers will acknowledge this policy (for example: they’ll reach out and say: “I’m only 18, can I book this property?”) and that makes it pretty easy to weed out the youngsters. Other times, red flags are more subtle, such as a booking that is attached to an “@edu” email address.
One way we verify age for these “@edu” travelers is to run a quick Google search. Search results often reveal that the traveler is a professor or educator of some kind, and no further action is needed. Other times, we discover that a college freshman is booking a spring break trip to Panama City Beach and we think, hmm.. let’s look into this.
Any suspected underage travelers are required to supply a valid photo ID, along with a stated purpose of their trip. If the age on the ID does not comply with the minimum age policy, those travelers will likely be looking for other accommodations.
Even though more bookings will increase your revenue, the wrong bookings can cause more problems than they’re worth. Your goal as a vacation rental homeowner should not only be to get bookings, but also to get bookings with the right travelers.
At Evolve, we understand the importance of not just filling your calendar with bookings, but filling your property with great guests. In fact for just 10%, we are committed to increasing your bookings and your free time. Click here to learn more about what we do for vacation rental homeowners.