Unfortunately along with the on-line holiday advertising boom, the “caravan-scam” is now rapidly growing. The following should guide and help a little - PLEASE READ BEFORE YOU HAND ANY £££ OVER to book your holiday through an advertised private rental of any sort:
Caravan Scams - How do they 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. NOTE: please bear in mind that some of the bigger 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 and they will then calmly 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 been known for families to arrive on the site, with a car full of holiday luggage and kids in tow - 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 and pasted 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 - What to look out for:
- 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 and over again), to obtain your cash
- They will be vague on specific details - for both the Holiday Home and the site
- They will give very short answers to any of your questions (and usually their grammar leaves a lot to be desired!) - or they will state that they will "get back to you" (which never happens!)
- You receive a "cold-call" Personal Message (PM) from the Scammer
- They will be unwilling to give full details (name, home address, telephone number) - or the details you are given will prove to be false at a later date
- They will refuse to give you details to be able to contact the site and confirm Ownership, or give you excuses as to why this cannot be done
- 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 on
- They will require immediate payment of either deposit, entire balance, or both
- No paperwork will be issued
- If you ask "too many questions" - they will "block" you from their profiles, or ignore your messages
- Their profiles will be relatively new, with little detail on them
- Their profile photo is false or indescript (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...)
How to avoid the Scammers:
- More and more GENUINE Owners are using "verified" sites to advertise - whereby Proof of Ownership has been given. Look out for these when you book. ETK has encouraged all members listing with us to become verified and this becomes a prerequisite for all members shortly (ie: no verification by proof of ownership = no listing) - so look out for the rather distinctive ETK Verification Badges & be assured in the knowledge that you are booking safely!
- 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 site itself, check that out on the site's official website (just google the site name!)
- Be wary of a "cold call" PM! 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 PMs...
- If you are asked for any money at all "up front" without any paperwork - be prepared. Although some owners still work in this way, it's not recommended best practice, especially with the scams going around at the moment so be extra 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! This is why ETK now offer a Documents Service, we produce professional quality documentation for you to use with your guests.
- If the price quoted seems very "cheap" - be wary (Peak dates especially) - check the actual site's website and get a feel for what they are charging... private rents ARE usually cheaper than site rentals, but not excessively.
- A usual deposit is between £50 ad £100 per booking - a genuine owner will NEVER ask for more than that!
- Make SURE you have the owner’s home details and a contact number – NEVER book unless you are given these - if you are really paranoid, 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 BEFORE you pay anything!)
- Make sure you are familiar with all the Terms and Conditions of your booking & are happy with them. If you are not given any, ASK WHY
- If you are unhappy or uneasy at all with anything - ask questions. A genuine owner will answer them!
- If you want to check ownership, ask the advertiser for the site office number and relevant details to quote - so the site can confirm the person you are dealing with IS the genuine owner. If these details are refused - be prepared to walk away! Be aware though: most sites are NOT allowed to give specific details to you (due to Data Protection), but they should be able to confirm if the person you are dealing with IS or ISN'T an Owner! The details you are given also should NOT be FULL account details - as this is yet another scam: a "potential" guest asks for these details to verify ownership and then uses them to scam others!
- Most genuine owners will be able to put you in contact with a previous client 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 FB page or website (ie guestbook pages).
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 & genuine Owners will always be more than happy to advise
So if in doubt: SHOUT!
If there is anything you are unhappy with - DON'T BOOK.
ETK wish you a safe & happy holiday booking