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Avoid vacation apartment rental scams

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 agency. These can be found on this site or through the Tourism Office website. Generally, a reputable agency will have their address and phone listed on their website. Beware "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 Craigslist, or through other online or print ads (there are so many), 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.

- Google the property and the owner online (the Pages Blanches at www.pagesjaunes.fr will even show an image of the building). Unless they're on the blocked list, they should appear on the White Pages listing (my name shows up, for example, but only with phone and zip code, not the full address).

- Be immediately on guard if the owner's email is full of bad grammer 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.

Some other articles on the subject can be found here and here (scroll down a bit).

Amazingly (and sadly), there is a whole site about scammers using CraigsList Paris here (again, scroll down past the names to read the comments) and another scam victim speaks out here. Some of these are from owners, who also get scammed by fake renters, which should go to show a legit owner will be as wary as you are.

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.

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 I 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. :)

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Reader Comments (31)

I have used homeaway.com for the past 6 years, which is really a good and legit vacation rental site. I have used them for several places I've vacationed around the globe. I have been really fortunate with the owners of the rentals; nothing but positive experiences. I received my security deposits back within 7-10 days. However, I wish the dollar was stronger. The rentals are rather pricey when paying in U.S. dollars.
September 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTeesoup
I have actually had many problems with tourist rental agencies that were "legit" like Paris Attitude, regarding the security deposit. Both times that there had been problems, I didn't sign a sign out sheet saying there is nothing wrong with the apartment, therefore the contability is partly my fault, however both times at Paris Attitude and Parisian Home (should have learned my lesson the first time) They did a walk through and told me everything looked perfect and after leaving charged me for a new microwave(never been used by me) and a full couch(saying there was holes and had to replace the whole thing-not true). So don't repeat my stupid mistakes and make sure there is a sign in and out sheet signed and kept by you.
October 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren
Has anyone used feelparis.com how do I know if it is legit? I am going in Dec 2011 and is rue du ponceau in Paris safe to stay?
November 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTanya
Hi Heather,

I love your site. I have been in Paris last December and I had the best time of my life. I am revisiting this May 2012 and doing more research. I would like to ask your thought on Airbnb in renting a studio instead of staying in a hotel.

January 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrika
Hi Heather -
SO sorry I found your site on our last day in Paris! However, you did provide the info needed so hopefully we are off to an English-language bookstore now. A note for you in case you choose to write more on this subject, we are here in a lovely home in Puteaux that we did not pay anything for - aside from time and labor. We use a website called homeexchange.com and are trading our summer house in Denmark for this house in Puteaux. We are fortunate to have inherited a second home so we have the ability to exchange in a leisurely fashion (called 'non-simultaneous') but many exchange during the exact same weeks with success. I will say, there are risks. We've done this before with folks from the U.S. and in one exchange got a very neurotic couple who couldn't stop contacting us every day with this and that (not so relaxing for us). But this time around . . . it's working great! So - a thought for your readers.
Keep up the good work!
August 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen W-C
I rented an aprtment in Paris from ASLOM 2 years ago and recognized some type of scammy activity as well. Thry never took our all cash security deposit, due to the person who gave us our keys not really knowing what was going on. Once we checked in, and called with minor issues, we never heard from them again. They never returned phone calls or E-mails!!!
November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G
I rented for a year an apartment Avenue Victor Hugo through Cabinet Ravier, Paris 75116 when we left they did an "etat des lieux" and they charged us 60 euros for each bulb, that we used to purchase for 4,5 euros + the cost for the electrician !
October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterThierry
Great post! and I partially agree with your opinion. I own this Trullo in Italy - and it's never easy to get payments from clients. To avoid any misunderstanding we need to use Booking, Airbnb or other websites but they ask a lot of fees to manage the service (Booking asks around the 15% of the income!). We can't afford sometimes to have also too much accounts!
February 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAdamo
Hey Heather. Thank you for your article and your sharing experience. Your give lot of good advice.
November 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEmma
Hello, I just fount this thread by pure luck and read the main post as well as some of the comments.

I've been living in Paris for about twenty years and work mostly for hotels. And I just wanted to WARN you all
about the NOISE. Most tourist complain about this when they visit Paris but are actually unaware somehow that Paris
is a major tourist destination where you will find no less than TWENTY THOUSAND people per square km.

Also there are bars and restaurants literally in every-single-street. So yes, it is most probable that there will be a bar or a night club near your vacation rental.
March 10, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCésar

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