If you are planning a party and need to rent chairs, decorations, a bouncy house, or any other supplies, scammers are looking to target you.

BBB Scam Tracker is getting reports of party hosts tricked by rentals that don’t materialize. Before planning your next party, get to know this scam to avoid being conned.

How The Scam Works

You are planning a party and need to rent supplies. You do a web or social media search and find a few options. For example, you may find a website that looks legitimate and has a convenient online booking system. Or you might message someone through a social media account that seems professional. Either way, the “vendor” promises to reserve your rental for the date you need it – if you pay a deposit first. They may also require you to fill out a contact form with your personal details.

The date of your party arrives, and your rental tent, furniture, or other supplies don’t arrive. At this point, the “vendor” may tell you they’ve had an emergency and can’t deliver on their promise. However, when you ask for your money back, the scammers will disappear completely. Other times, you can’t contact the rental company at all.

One consumer reported this experience to BBB Scam Tracker: “The day of the event, the rental never came. I called the phone number, and it went straight to an answering machine… I left several messages. None have been returned, and it has now been two months.”

How to Avoid Rental Scams

  • Do your research before you rent. Look for the rental company’s website and ensure it has accurate contact information. Then, read consumer reviews about the company on third-party websites, such as BBB.org. Also, search the business name plus the word “scam” to make sure you don’t find any reports of fraudulent business dealings.
  • Be careful with your personal details. You may need to fill out a contract with personal information, but make sure you are dealing with a legitimate, professional company before you hand over sensitive information.
  • Be wary of people who contact you on messaging apps. Legitimate businesses may use messaging apps to interact with you, but it’s unlikely they will contact you out of the blue this way. Even if you do speak with a business through a messaging app, make sure they have a website and working contact information.
  • Check the rental company’s website for clear cancellation and refund policies. If this is not readily available, walk away.
  • Always pay with a credit card. It’s much easier to dispute fraudulent charges if you use your credit card. If you pay with a debit card or cash, you may not get your money back if you find out you were scammed.
  • Keep documentation of your order – After completing the online order process, there should be a final confirmation page, or the renter should receive a confirmation by e-mail. Save a copy of the Web page and any e-mails for future reference and as a record of the purchase.

Source: BBB.org

If you spot a party rental scam or any other kind of scam, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker to help build consumer awareness. To find trustworthy businesses, go to https://www.bbb.org.