There has been a massive surge in DVC rental interest in recent years, which is absolutely wonderful, since it is without a doubt the most financially-savvy way for non-DVC members to visit Disney World and stay on property (at the same time it helps DVC members like me rent out our points, cha-ching!), but as with any thriving online marketplace involving the exchange of large sums of money, there has been a huge influx of scammers. While there have always been isolated occurrences of people getting scammed renting DVC points, it is now almost guaranteed that you will encounter a scammer if you are posting in the DVC Rental groups on Facebook.
Just as a reminder, in these transactions the individuals renting the points (the non DVC members who are trying to book a room to use for their families) assume 99.99% of the risk. The typical DVC rental transaction involves a DVC member booking a room for a renter, sending the renter the reservation confirmation along with the reservation number that can be linked to the renter’s My Disney Experience account, followed by the renter sending payment via Venmo, Paypal, Zelle, Gift Cards, or whatever the agreed upon payment method is. It is a super quick and easy transaction, but the renter is basically sending a big chunk of money to a stranger on the internet with very little recourse if the person is not legit.
Fortunately, it is pretty easy to identify a scammer when it comes to DVC rental transactions. Any of the following are big red flags and you should immediately move on to someone else:
- Being asked to send money up front. This may seem obvious, but do not send anyone any money up front for these transactions. Some scammers are pretty smart about it and present it as an “up front deposit”, followed by the exchange of the reservation number, followed by a payment plan for the remaining balance. This is absolutely not the way these transactions are conducted. There is no reason for a DVC member to EVER ask for a deposit before sending over the reservation number and letting you link it to your My Disney Experience account when it comes to renting confirmed reservations. There is a very, very isolated situation where a tiny deposit could make sense if you contact a DVC member who has points available, and YOU ask for the member to book certain dates that would require the DVC member to borrow points from the next use year. In this case, the DVC member is risking that you change your mind and then they can’t unborrow the points and return them to the next use year. In that case, a tiny good faith deposit of $50 might be warranted, but that is a very, very rare scenario. This only applies when nothing is previously booked, and you ask the member to borrow points from next year to book a trip for you. Again, if you are renting a “confirmed reservation” that someone has already booked prior to talking to you, there is absolutely NEVER any reason for them to require a deposit up front. No money should be exchanged until you see the reservation in your My Disney Experience account.
- Piggybacking on number 1, no money should be exchanged based on a screenshot of a reservation that does not show the reservation number. If anyone sends you a screenshot with the reservation number covered up or blacked out, it is probably a fake screenshot. In recent weeks I have seen incredibly real looking screenshots that reflect the proper dates, proper point values, the correct guest names, etc, but have the reservation number covered up “until they receive payment.” These are fake screenshots with the dates and names manually adjusted/photoshopped. It is pretty impressive how real they look sometimes.
- If you post in a group searching for certain dates and someone messages you privately without first commenting on your post, there is a 75% chance that they are a scammer. If they message you privately and happen to have a confirmed reservation for your exact dates, the chance that they are a scammer jumps up to 99%. If they message you privately and have your exact dates for a price that is below what you have seen elsewhere, don’t even bother responding. Report them to an admin as a scammer and move on to someone who commented on your post publicly.
That is really all there is to it. To protect yourself during these transactions, just avoid those red flags. There is a lot more going on with scammers than what I described so far, but if you avoid those three, you will really be fine. Honestly even just avoiding number 1 will cover you. If you see a reservation properly reflected in My Disney Experience, you are safe to send payment. In theory there is some risk that the DVC member could delete your reservation after you send payment, but that type of scam really doesn’t make any sense. The scammers out there are not legitimate DVC members who can book a reservation and then delete it. That would be a massive, massive investment for a scammer to make just to delete reservations and then have their name immediately blacklisted in all these rental groups.
Just to be thorough, there are other steps that people do take to cover provide themselves with some comfort that the person they are talking to is legitimate before they send money to a stranger on the internet:
- Typically, it can’t hurt to ask for references prior to entering into one of these transactions. It is worth noting though that in recent weeks, scammers have been able to provide references to people. It is unclear whether multiple people are working together to scam people, or whether the scammer just has multiple fake profiles that they use as references. The fake references offer reassurance that it is safe to send the scammer money up front rather than waiting to see the reservation linked to your account.
- Absolutely search the person’s name in as many rental groups as you can. First, this allows you to verify that they are actually in the group and didn’t have another person just scouting out people looking for reservations and then they private message you. Second, people with a long track record will have posts from prior renters singing their praises typically. Third, you can see if the person previously posted about the dates you are looking for, in which case they didn’t just make up a reservation to message you about. Lastly, most groups have plenty of posts calling out scammers by name. You will feel pretty silly if you send someone money and then see that someone previously posted in a group warning everyone not to send that person money.
- Look up the person’s name on the relevant Comptroller websites. See below for all of the applicable Comptroller websites. You have to ask the DVC member what their home resort is, and that will direct you to the proper Comptroller website (ie most of the Disney World resorts will be on the Orlando listing, whereas Aulani will be in Hawaii, Disneyland resorts will be in California, etc). Again, it has been noticed in recent weeks that scammers will actually make fake profiles with names similar to those of actual DVC members they have identified in the rental groups. Someone was scamming people and using a transposed DVC member’s name (first name last). So when a prospective renter would search for their name on the Comptroller website, the name would appear to come up.
Orange County (FL) Comptroller/Recorder (Disney World Resorts):
Indian River County (FL) Comptroller/Recorder (Vero Beach Resort):
Beaufort County (SC) Comptroller/Recorder (Hilton Head Island Resort):
Orange County (CA) Comptroller/Recorder (Disneyland Resorts):
State of Hawaii Comptroller/Recorder (Aulani Resort):
- Use a contract if it makes you feel more comfortable. I provided some templates for contracts years ago at the link below. I don’t personally see the benefit of contracts in most situations. I don’t know how much they would hold up legally. I don’t see you actually getting your money back just because you signed a piece of paper with a person before sending them money. They will be using a fake name and whatnot, and you’d really have an uphill battle. The only benefits I see to these contracts are really for the DVC members themselves. It is a chance to outline info about housekeeping, not trashing the rooms, etc. I think renters feel safer signing a contract sometimes, but they don’t add much value.
- Be wary of people who ask for payment methods like Zelle or Cash App exclusively. Zelle can be fine, but for some reason most facebook scammers do seem to ask for it. There is absolutely no reason to be put off by someone asking for Venmo or Paypal Friends and Family. Those are actually the most common legitimate payment methods (goods and services charges a fee, and does not offer protection for these transactions, so it is literally just throwing money away). Similarly, don’t be put off by someone asking for payment in Disney gift cards. My understanding of this approach is that it is just an easy way for people to avoid paying taxes most likely since they aren’t receiving any cash (not proper in any way, but people always like finding ways to be paid under the table).
To summarize, there are several steps you can take to make yourself feel comfortable with sending money to a stranger on the internet in hopes of renting a DVC room for your upcoming Disney trip. Honestly, most of the steps are unnecessary as long as you avoid the three red flags listed above. Renting DVC points to book a Deluxe resort on property is one of the absolute best ways to do Disney, as long as you protect yourself and don’t send any money up front to anyone without doing a slight bit of due diligence.