It’s been a real nightmare for many unsuspecting holiday makers.
After booking the ideal property for a well deserved break, they arrived at their destination only to find out that the properties were already occupied or worse, didn’t actually exist.
The person they made the arrangements with could not be contacted at all and the money had already been paid from their bank accounts.
Due to the surge in visitor numbers, accommodation demand is at an all time high and people have started to take risks when booking rental property online and scammers are using it to their advantage by offering rental properties at unrealistic prices or similar tactics to entice their victims.
The actual number of people scammed by this method is probably much higher because many don’t report it.
It was stated in the news recently that one family lost £3,722 on a fortnight’s holiday for eight in Tenerife.
Others turned up at villas to find they were already occupied.
Twenty Spaniards and Romanians were arrested in Spain after allegedly conning £679,000 out of tourists in this way.
According to Spanish reports, police arrested a gang on suspicion of fraud and money-laundering, froze their bank accounts and seized €70,000, seven cars and a boat.
We keep a list of the scam sites on this page of My Tenerife Report and update it whenever we find more sites that fall into the same category.
Rental property companies say that contacting owners before and after booking is one of the best anti-fraud checks.
Call the number on the advert or the site and ask specific questions about the booking. If the person cannot answer your questions to your satisfaction and you don’t feel comfortable then it might be better to try elsewhere.
While scammers can easily pose as fake owners over the phone, most of them are unwilling to spend time answering questions about the property and probably don’t have the answers you need.
They tend to end the conversation quickly and persuade you to make payment which in itself should be a big warning sign for you.
Check for reviews about the place or the site. Use Google by typing in the name of the site or listing and add “reviews” after it.
Unfortunately, there can be fake reviews on the sites and you should also look for any recent clustering of good reviews which would point towards them being unnatural and manipulated.
It’s up to you to sift through the chaff and conclude whether the good outweigh the bad.
Conversely, having no reviews does not make it a fraud either which is why you need to implement several weapons in your arsenal to arrive at a safe conclusion.
The word “Spoofing” comes up a lot.
Make sure the website address is correct and does not have any slight variations because scammers like to play on the names of established sites to make their site look more trustworthy.
Sites that have https in their address (padlock icon in your browser) offer you a secure connection which means that data is encrypted and it should be safer, especially when making transactions.
Most of the established sites have their contact details proudly displayed on multiple pages of their sites and have all the usual pages that give confidence to potential clients like the About, Legal, Help, and Support pages.
If the site is not one of the big established ones that you know are authentic and belong to a trusted regulatory body, it might be a good idea to dig deeper and check the website for hidden information.
Many of the scam sites we checked had About pages which were populated with profile photos of people that had no connection and the details were all fake.
On the Whois page that is returned, you’ll be given all kinds of information about the specific domain as long as they have not chosen to keep it private.
What to look for?
- When was the domain registered? (The older the better)
- How long until it expires? (The more time to expiration, the better)
- IP Location. (Certain locations are hot spots for cyber crime)
- Registrant name. (Does the name look authentic?)
- Registrant’s address. (Does the address look real?)
If the website is a physical business, there is no real reason why they would use the privacy feature to hide their details. If they hide it then you would need to ask yourself why a business needs to hide their details online.
The privacy feature for domains is primarily used for “personal” privacy, not business privacy.
An example of this is our own website.
It’s not a physical business so it’s set to private to keep all the crazy people away, and some spammers.
Some of the large property rental sites have their own payment systems and offer fraud protection and will compensate you if anything goes wrong.
Booking with a credit card like Visa or Mastercard is another great way to make sure you have some protection against fraud.
If using Paypal, make sure you select “good and services” so that you get payment protection. Never select the friends or family option because there is no protection for payments using that option.
Never make payments using Western Union, banker’s draft, or cashier’s cheques because they are not protected.
I can’t finish this without mentioning that property owners themselves can be targets too.
Here’s how it works…
1. The fraudster gets in touch and asks to book time, often over a long period to increase the value of the payment.
2. He says he had already paid for a stay elsewhere, but the other owner had to cancel after a supposed catastrophe, such as flooding or the roof falling in.
3. The cost of the stay at the other place was, say, £5,000, compared to £3,000 at your place.
4. He says that for “simplicity” he will instruct the other owner to send you a cheque for £5,000. You can then wire the difference of £2,000 directly to him.
5. The cheque arrives from the alleged landlord. You bank it on receipt and transfer the difference. Being a foreign cheque, it appears to have been deposited safely but then bounces. Your phantom guest vanishes.
I hope that you find this article useful and please make sure you share it as often as possible to help others avoid falling for these scams.