Unfortunately, these days there seem to be far too many tales of holidaymakers falling prey to holiday scams, whether it’s a case of people arriving to discover the property doesn’t exist or arriving at your holiday home to find it does exist but the property completely differs from the photos used in the advertising. Another scam doing the rounds is done via phishing. In short, a legitimate property listing is hijacked and the emails intercepted by a fraudster. Holidaymakers looking to rent the property are asked to transfer money but the cash is going directly to the fraudster and bypassing the owner. Whatever the type of fraud, it is hugely distressing, and usually costly, for anyone caught up in it.
Unfortunately, booking direct with the owner does mean holidaymakers are open to a greater degree of fraud. For genuine villa owners, this is just as frustrating for them as it is for those looking to book…. However, Bookings For You wanted to share some easy tips to ensure that you don’t become the scammers next victim.
1. First and foremost, do your research. Don’t rush into booking your holiday rental. Take time to research all aspects of the holiday, from the property owner to the property itself. Don’t be tempted to book in a hurry, worried that your ideal holiday rental will be booked by someone else if you don’t act quickly. Take your time…
2. Use google maps to confirm the location of your holiday rental. Nowadays it is often possible to then go a step further and use streetview to see that the property matches up with the photos on the advertising. This can help to confirm that the property actually exists.
3. Make sure there is a phone number you can call the property owner on and make sure you actually call it. Remember that a landline number provides more security than a mobile will. Once you get to speak to the owner, quiz them about the property…. it’s pretty easy to get an idea of how well they know the holiday rental as soon as you start asking a few questions. And a genuine villa owner should be more than happy to answer as many questions as you can come up with! Find out about the owner as well. Ask where they live and when they bought the property…. You can then verify these details on the internet later.
4. Look for reviews. If booking through a rental site such as AirBnB, Owners Direct or Holiday Rentals to name just a few, check when the property owner joined the site. This is usually possible. The longer the property has been on the books, or the longer the property owner or agent has been advertising on the site, the more likely they are to be genuine and legitimate. If booking through an individual property owner, don’t just rely on one review. Instead, do a thorough search online to ensure the individual and property is credible. If the advertiser or property is suspect, other people may well have posted their experiences in an effort to warn other people off.
6. Rental sites such as AirBnB are also designed to protect you financially as much as possible. They handle the payment between the guest and the property owner. As an example, when a booking goes through AirBnB they immediately take the money from the guest to reassure the host that it’s a genuine booking. But, importantly for the guest, they don’t release the money to the host until 24 hours after check in. That way, if the listing isn’t what the guest thought it was they can get their money back. Unfortunately, fraudsters try to tempt holidaymakers to deal outside the AirBnB system. Don’t be tempted to do so. Never be tempted to communicate with the advertiser outside AirBnB channels, whatever the advertiser’s excuse for doing so.
7. Pay using a credit card. Don’t transfer vast sums of money either via bank transfer or via money transfer services such as Western Union or MoneyGram. These payment methods are highly susceptible to fraud. Legitimate rental companies will be able to take payments by credit card. Most credit card providers offer charge-back protection should there be an issue with your booking thereby offering holidaymakers that little bit of added protection. Interestingly, the majority of those who were defrauded last year paid by bank transfer or cash. leaving them with no means by which they could get their money back. Only a small proportion of those scammed paid by credit or debit card.
8. It is always best to visit reputable or official websites independently. Don’t respond to unsolicited emails. Also, check the credentials of a site before you make a booking and look to see whether they belong to a renowned travel association or scheme. Take the Bookings For You website as an example. A look at the business homepage shows that they belong to ABTOI offering greater peace of mind when booking. In addition, the company has consistently been awarded bronze, silver or gold British Travel awards and have built up a number of reviews via google and Feefo. These are all things which provide peace of mind when booking and prove the legitimacy of the business.
9. Make sure you read through the rental agreement in full prior to making a booking or making a payment. Do make sure you fully understand the deposit guidelines and refund policies in the agreement before you sign it and call the owner or property manager if you have any questions.
And finally, remember…. if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.