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, such as Facebook, Gumtree 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 (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, or even the full balance, 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, (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.
Lots of "Facebook-scammers" are now trying to "clone" genuine owner's profiles to obtain some sort of credence, using the 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!
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.
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...
There are some "verified-owner" groups popping up on social media sites... but be aware that not all genuine owners choose to join them: 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 group....
What to look out for:
NEVER, EVER respond to a "private message" on social media:
The "scammers" are now very wise to how the social media holiday-groups work & will "infiltrate" them wherever possible! Usual "tactics" is to send you a message offering a "great deal" for your holiday - when they HAVE no holiday to offer you!
If you use social media to find your holiday: reply to any comments on your post (IF they have shown a full link to their property, which you MUST check-out!) & ask them to contact you, or you contact them.
If you see a comment of "I have in-boxed you" - 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!
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!
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.