Scammer targets Clark Howard while on vacation

ATLANTA — It takes a lot of nerve to try to scam Channel 2 consumer adviser Clark Howard. 
           
Clark says crooks running a vacation scam tried to ruin his trip and take his money. Now he's warning of the red flags you can watch for.
 
Clark was the target of a ploy that could have left him homeless in Hawaii.
 
It started when he was looking for a rental condo on the island of Maui.  He used a site called vacation rental by owner, or vrbo.com.
 
He found the perfect condo, and clicked on the button, "Email the owner."
 
"And they respond back the next day and say for those particular dates, they were willing to offer me a deal," Clark said.
 
…as long as Clark wired money to a bank in Poland.
 
But it turns out Clark wasn't emailing the real condo owner.
           
Carl Shepherd, the co-founder of VRBO's parent company HomeAway, told Channel 2's Jim Strickland via Skype that it's a phishing scam.
 
A crook got possession of a property manager's email account and was able to redirect messages out of that email account into a personal account.
 
Strickland found a document HomeAway filed with securities regulators earlier this year. The word "phishing" shows up six times.
           
A closed Facebook page of VRBO phishing victims has more than 200 members. HomeAway says only a small percentage of their customers are victims of this scam.
 
Shepherd said "99.8 percent of people are going to travel on HomeAway and never be introduced to Internet fraud."
 
Clark's taking no chances.
 
"I'm going to go to a rental agency and rent direct as a way of knowing that I'm dealing with the actual real property manager," Clark said.
 
HomeAway says to protect yourself, always talk to the rental owner by phone before you send money.
 
If the number isn't listed, you can call VRBO to get it.
           
Clark says don't ever wire money, use a credit card.