Avoid Those Scammers

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Unfortunately over the last few 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, such as Facebook, Gumtree, Shpock etc.

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, 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!"

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What is a holiday scam?

Usually, the scammer who is 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, or even the full balance, on a holiday home that simply does not exist.

Unfortunately, across social media: there are some unscrupulous owners advertising who are refusing to return damage bonds for very minor issues on departure, cancelling holidays with no refund with various excuses as to why the holiday cannot be proccessed, or providing a Holiday Home that is simply not fit for purpose as a rental.

How does the scam happen?

It's becoming more and more common for the scammer to use genuine Holiday Home photos on their adverts, (that belong to a genuine owner), but not unheard of, for them to just copy and paste brochure photos, or photos from a simple "google" search!

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

Recently, "Facebook-scammers" have even been "cloning" genuine owner's profiles, (by setting up a "false accounts" using genuine names and photos), to obtain some sort of credence, using the genuine owner's own profile picture and name.  This will become obvious with the date of the profile creation and the lack of information on it!  Or they will claim to be "connected" to a genuine owner:- this season, someone tried to advertise, saying they were physically related to AVMR!  That didn't last very long!!!!

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 their "holiday" at a higher rate than they have paid, using false details.

With the ever-growing recognition that scams do actually happen: it has been known 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.....

Unfortunately some naive owners have also happily handed full pitch details out to a "potential guest" to try & prove that they are a genuine owner and in return - the "potential guest" has gone on to use these details to scam others...

"Verified Owner Groups":
There are some "verified-owner" groups popping up on social media sites...  but be aware that not all genuine owners choose to join them, (AVMR included!): simply as a "joining-requirement" is to send over proof of ownership, to effectively what it just yet another faceless name on the network who happens to be an "admin" of a social-media group and is not governed by any GDPR regulations....

What to look out for:

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Never, ever, respond to a random inbox on social media:

The "scammers" are now very wise to how the social media holiday-groups work and will "infiltrate" them wherever possible!  Usual "tactics" is to send you a random inbox-message offering a "great deal" for your holiday, when in reality: they HAVE NO HOLIDAY to offer you! 

If you use social media to find your holiday:

  • Post a request for your holiday (try to include dates, location, number of people, dogs or no-dogs etc) and ask for COMMENTS ON YOUR POST
  •  ONLY reply to comments that have shown a full link, (facebook page or website etc), on your post, (which you MUST check-out!), and then (and only then!), ask them to contact you, or you contact them direct
  • If you see a comment of "I have in-boxed you" as a reply:- unless you can see full details of the property on that comment: IGNORE IT!

Check out all links you are given:

Ask for a website link, (or a Facebook page link), and check it out!  If the social media profile is new, with hardly any comments or no relevance to a Holiday Home - walk away!

Lots will "advise" that you ring the Holiday Park direct and ask them to verify the owner..... in theory, sounds like a good idea, HOWEVER: the majority of Holiday Parks will no longer confirm any information at all due to GDPR regulations and even if they do: this won't help you much if your scammer is using a "cloned" ID and gives you a genuine owner's details.....

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 advertising:

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 two 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!

AVOID hand-written adverts!  Believe it or not, some will post out a screenshot of a hand-written note as their "advertising" or available dates:- which speaks for itself really and shows how much "effort" has gone into it!

Paperwork:

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-property-rental: make sure you are given the owner's home address and contact numbers, NEVER rely on Facebook profile or a mobile phone number as your only point of contact! 

Pricing:

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 very 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
  • You have no holiday....

Deposits or "Money-Up-Front":

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

This won't apply to any last-minute bookings, which generally will have to be paid for at point of booking, but if you are asked to pay in full for a holiday that is months away.... walk away.

Damage Bonds

A damage bond is generally charged for every private rental.  However: there should be time limits set as to when this will be returned to you, should no problems be found with your rental and you should not be left waiting weeks for it to be refunded.  Take a quick read of our blog for some bond advice!

Questions:

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.

What can you do if you have been "Scammed?"

In reality, sadly: not a lot.

There is little point in speaking to the Holiday Park direct, as the Holiday Companies have no involvement whatsoever with private rentals, UNLESS the property is unsafe in any way.  ALL Holiday Parks have an obligation to ensure all Holiday Homes on their sites are safe: electrical and gas saftey checks HAVE to be carried out regularly as a prerequisite of owning, (electric every 3-years and gas annually) and the property has to be insured.  These safety check certificates should be displayed at a rental property, if they are not - ask to see them at the park office.  Apart from those two factors, unfortunately, if your Holiday Home is, in your opinion, "unfit for purpose" - the responsibility lies with the owner and not the Holiday Park and they cannot action anything on your behalf.

With regards to finances, it can be exceedingly difficult to try to recover funds from a "bogus" owner:- whether that be a "true" scammer who has never actually owed, or an owner who chooses to act belligerently before, during, or after your stay.  It IS worth reporting to "Action Fraud"  - although there will be very little they can do to recover your funds, so don't have big expectations of receiving any lost monies back.

If a genuine owner is refusing to refund a damage bond, it's worth reading our blog to see if your retention is warranted and all Terms and Conditions of your contract have been followed.

As difficult as it will be and as angry as you will feel:- it is never a good idea to take to social media with your grievances.  You could find yourself getting into defamation and libel problems.  All issues are best dealt with privately between you and your owner, (and if you have no contact details for your owner other than social media contact - afraid that is your mistake, and a very big one!) 

 

 

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

WALK AWAY

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