Avoid the Scammers in 2017
Avoid those scammers in 2017!
The private rental market for holidays is a steadily growing one, which is great for guests looking for a bargain-break... unfortunately: it also attracts all sorts of opportunists who see the private rental market as "prime pickings" for scamming attempts - some fairly realistic and others are just laughable attempts ....
BUT: their only intention is to make a "quick buck" and guests are still being "caught out" which = no holiday and waving goodbye to their hard-earned cash ....
Follow ETK's guidelines to STAY SAFE with your private holiday booking, regardless of WHO you are booking through:
How do holiday scams work?
Basically, the Holiday Home(s) will be advertised, usually on social media sites, Gumtree or Ebay with the one and only intention of obtaining your hard-earned cash, which will then result in leaving you with no holiday.
Do bear in mind that even some of the bigger and more well known internet-based Holiday Lettings Agencies DO NOT ask for proof of ownership before a listing is accepted, so if the scammer is willing to pay listing fees, it's easy to place an ad there too.
When you "book" - you faithfully pay your deposit, or even the entire balance to the scammer, who will calmly (and usually quite quickly), vanish:- taking your money with them.
Unfortunately, it can sometimes take a while before you even realise you have been "scammed" and by that time, it may be too late to recover any funds paid. It has not been uncommon for families to arrive on the site, with a car full of holiday luggage + excited kids in tow, only to be informed on arrival that the Holiday Home they have "booked" simply doesn't exist.
- The Scammer won't own a Holiday Home at all
- The photos and descriptions shown will be copied from a genuine advert(s)
- The Scammer has booked from a genuine Owner and re-sells the dates at a higher price (effectively sub-letting which is not permitted by genuine Owners)
PROTECT YOURSELVES: Know what to look out for:
Be sensible when looking for your holiday, do your homework: look at the holiday company's pricing and description of the resort before you start. Take your time, don't book the first Holiday Home you see without giving it thought!
Here's a few pointers to look out for and be aware of when you are on your Holiday-Hunt:
- The scammer's pricing will be very low compared with other genuine Holiday Homes in the area, especially on peak dates, (school holidays!)
- There will be lots of available dates, (again, especially in peak season), as the scammer will obviously just be selling as many dates as possible, (over & over again), to obtain your cash
- They may be vague on specific details, for both the Holiday Home and the resort itself
- They will give very short answers to any of your questions, or answer them incorrectly: One scammer in 2016 was asked how near their caravan was to the Burger King restaurant on site and replied that it was a 2-min-walk away .... there was NO Burger King restaurant on that particular Holiday Park!
- If you ask "too many questions", they will state that they will "get back to you" (which never happens!) or they will "block" you from their profiles, or ignore your messages.
- You receive a "cold-call" private message from the scammer:- usually they trawl the Holiday-Home groups on social media sites and will contact you privately when they see you asking, rather than commenting in public on your thread: which has a higher risk of being "detected" by the genuine Owners!
- They will be unwilling to give their full details (name, home address, telephone number), or the details you are given will prove to be false at a later date.
- There will be few photos of the Holiday Home and the quality can be below standard, (as they are usually copied and pasted from the genuine advert)... sometimes the scammer will use various photographs from different Holiday Homes and try to pass it off as one Holiday Home... sometimes the pictures of the site will not actually be the site the scammer states the Holiday Home is actually on!
- They will require immediate payment of either deposit, entire balance, or both
- No paperwork will be issued
- Their social media profiles will be relatively new, with little detail on them.
- Their profile photo is false or nondescript (usually a happy catalogue person, or flowers, animals etc)
- If you ask for feedback from previous guests, those "guests" will most probably be on the scammer's "friend-list" (which will be a limited number of people, as the profile has been set up purely to scam...)
What is a "Verified Owner?"
Lots of advertising sites are now requesting proof of ownership for the Holiday Home, which in turn labels the advertiser as a "verified owner."
Lots of social media groups are professing to only permit "verified owners" to advertise: do be aware that these groups are not governed by the Data Protection legislation, as these groups are run by individuals, not companies, and as such using the phrase "verified owner" simply means that the advertiser has felt comfortable handing personal ownership details over to a face-less name on a social media group! There are a great number of genuine owners who will not partake in these groups, as they are not prepared to hand over personal information on social media.
Be aware that a lot of the actual resorts will also now refuse to "verify" an owner due to Data Protection legislation. Owners can ring the resort & request that their details be confirmed for a following guest call, but this is not always agreed to by the resort staff.
How can you try to avoid the scams?
There are a few issues to look out for:
- Unless it is the beginning of the season, or the owner states they have only just started to rent, take a close look at the availability. If there are lots of available dates, ask why
- Look CAREFULLY at the ads:- the way they are worded and what photos are shown. If there are any of the resort itself, check that out on the site's official website (just Google the resort name!)
- Be wary of a "cold call" private message! Genuine owners will not contact you, unless you have contacted them first, or it will be in response to a query you have submitted on one of the Holiday Home groups - but be aware that this is where the scammers hide too: so remember these tips when responding to any messages.....
- If you are asked for any money at all "up front" without any mention of paperwork:- be prepared and be wary. Although some owners still work in this way, it's not recommended best practice, especially with the increase in holiday-scams, so be vigilant. Some scammers will ask for your money up front and you will never hear from them again, you will probably work out if an owner is more genuine by researching them carefully first. Nowadays, it's more common for genuine owners to provide you with at least booking forms, BEFORE any money exchanges hands, even if it is a "late booking", however some still insist on money first: so they are not wasting their time with "false" bookings and getting paperwork ready for nothing. Just use your common sense!
- If the paperwork you receive looks "shoddy" or "cobbled together" - it most probably is!
- If the price quoted seems very "cheap" - be wary ("peak" dates especially), check the actual resort's website and get a feel for what they are charging... private rents ARE usually cheaper than site rentals, but not excessively.
- A usual holiday-deposit is between £50-100 per booking, a genuine owner will NEVER ask for more than that!
- Make SURE you have the owner’s home details + a contact number:– NEVER book unless you are given these, (you can always Google them, look them up on the electoral roll etc so you can be sure they are who they say they are.)
- Make sure you are issued with a receipt for every payment you make.
- Genuine owners will reserve dates on the required deposit and will give you a payment due date, which the balance must be paid by. If you are asked to pay the entire cost in one hit, QUERY IT. (Unless it is a "late deal" and in which case, a genuine owner will still provide paperwork!)
- Make sure you are familiar with all the Terms and Conditions of your booking and are happy with them. If you are not given any, ASK WHY NOT!
- If you are unhappy or uneasy at all with anything - ask questions. A genuine owner will answer them!
- Most genuine owners will be able to put you in contact with a previous guest if necessary, (after gaining permission obviously), so you can find out more from someone who has actually stayed at the Holiday Home.
- Check for feedback either on the owner's social media pages or website (ie guestbook pages.)
If in doubt - SHOUT!
Please ask other owners if you are unsure about anything (BEFORE YOU PAY!) - there are plenty of Holiday Home groups on the social media sites and genuine owners will always be more than happy to advise
What do you do if you have been "caught" by a scammer?
Unfortunately, unless you happen to have been taken in by a regular offender, the chances of you seeing your hard-earned cash again is slim.
However, if you are certain your money has disappeared: do report it. Please do not use "999" to do so! It can be reported as a non-urgent crime on "101," in person at your local police station or via the "Action Fraud" line on: 0300-123-2040.
Please ensure you are 100% certain you have been a "scamming-victim" before any action is taken: just because an owner doesn't respond to you within a few days doesn't necessarily mean they have "taken your money!" ... they may be working, ill, or on holiday themselves!
If there is anything you are unhappy with: DON'T BOOK!
ETK wish you a happy and SAFE 2017 holiday!
Don't forget to take a look through the beautiful Holiday Homes we have listed at ETK whilst you're here!