Private Rentals: Avoid the Scams

Unfortunately over the years, the number of "scams" for private holiday rentals has been on the increase... especially now it is common-place for holiday rentals to be advertised via social media and "free-selling" websites.

We've put together a few handy tips to try and help avoid any mishaps with your holiday booking:

Holiday Scammers prefer social media & "free-selling" sites (such as Gumtree as a random example), simply as there are no fees to pay for their false advertising ....  however, don't be fooled into thinking that's the only place you will see their adverts!  Lots of the holiday rentals advertising sites charge for a listing:- and in the scheme of things, if they are not asked for any proof of ownership to place the advert: to pay £79 for a year's worth of advertising and make thousands on the scam before they vanish - is not "bad-going!"

What is a holiday scam?

Usually, the scammer advertising does not, and never has, owned a holiday home of any kind and is just an opportunist having seen the potential for "earning" a quick buck.

Because most genuine owners will ask for a deposit payment at least "up front"  there is an open door for the scammer to claim they own a holiday rental and charge you for a deposit on a holiday home that simply does not exist.

How does the scam happen?

It's becoming more common for the scammer to use genuine Holiday Home photos on their adverts, but not unheard of for them to just copy and paste brochure photos!

Most owners are now wise to this and water-mark their photos in some way.

Usually - the scammer will at least ask for a deposit up front and sometimes has been known to ask for full payment for the entire holiday. 

There is very rarely any paperwork issued, and you will never be given any true contact details for the "owner."

Usual course of action after you have handed over your hard-earned money:- is to be "blocked" or simply never hear from the person again......

Owners have also been scammed: 

It has been known for a "guest"  to book through usual procedures, but then sub-lets at a higher rate than they have paid, using false details.

The most recent scam for owners, with the ever-growing recognition that scams do actually happen: is for the guest to claim they have been scammed and to "play" on the owner's goodwill in the hopes of a "cheap" (or maybe even free !) holiday.....

What to look out for:

  • Take a close look at availability:  

Unless it is the beginning of the rental season, or the owner states the property is new to the rental market - if there are lots of dates available, especially in peak season:- ask yourself why.

Most scammers will sell dates over and over again - as all they are interested in is YOUR MONEY!  They are very unlikely to tell you that August is fully booked!

  • Look very carefully at the adverts: a lot of the scammers obviously don't have a clue about Holiday Homes and use random photos in their adverts:

So the inside may not necessarily match the outside, the photo for the living area leading to the dining area are 2 entirely different Holiday Homes, the outside will show a 2-bedroom caravan and the inside shows 3... they will state it is on one holiday park - when the photos show another, or will give you totally incorrect information about the site it is supposed to be on:  one scammer told a potential guest that the Holiday Home was 5-mins away from the site fish and chip shop - when there was no fish and chip shop on site!

  • If you are asked for any money up front with no sign of paperwork - be wary:

All genuine owners will issue paperwork of some sorts.  All owners work differently and some paperwork is "better" than others, but you should at least be able to view the Terms and Conditions of your rental and if these are not offered - ask for them and DO NOT book until you have seen them!  If you do, you have no idea what you are agreeing to for your rental!

If the paperwork you receive looks shoddy or cobbled together - it usually is!

Make sure you are issued with a receipt for every payment made.

If it is a one-van-rental: make sure you are given the owner's home address and contact numbers - don't rely on Facebook contact or a mobile phone number!

If it is an agent, or company booking you will be given full details of the company as standard!

  • If the price seems very cheap - be careful!

You usually get what you pay for!  Check the Holiday Park's website and get a feel for what they are charging.  Private rentals are usually cheaper than booking direct - but not by "£ silly-amount"  It's easy for the scammer to offer you an August 2-week holiday at £300 - when the site are charging £800: you think you have a real bargain: you pay - they vanish and you have no holiday....

A usual deposit is between £50-100 depending on the owner, any more than that & ask why.

  • If you are unsure of anything - ask questions:

A genuine owner will be happy to answer any questions you may have - a scammer will be evasive as they simply don't know the answers!

  • Recommendations:

Most genuine owners will be able to put you in touch with previous clients, (after gaining permission first obviously), so you can find out more from someone who has actually stayed at the Holiday Home.

Check for feedback on websites or Facebook pages from previous guests.

NEVER hand over any money at all until you are 100% comfortable with your booking.