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Avoiding Holiday Rental Scams – Top Tips

Avoiding Holiday Rental Scams – Top Tips

June 2013 016
Avoiding Holiday Rental Scams – Top Tips

We’ve found a great UK article on the best way of avoiding holiday rental scams – and which compliments our earlier articles “Why Rent a Holiday Home” and “Tips for Renting a Holiday Home“.  Below we have gone into a bit more detail about avoiding scams as we have adjusted the aforementioned article’s comments for an Australian holiday rental context and added a couple of our own tips as well!

Many prospective travelers/holidaymakers can be nervous about booking online for their holiday rental homes. Yes, we all need to show caution when booking holiday homes, villas and apartments, but there are ways to minimise your risk of being scammed.

Holidaymakers can be vulnerable when booking holiday lets online, especially when looking for bargains and last-minute deals. Even booking through one of the leading holiday rental and letting websites can involve risk.  Having said that, many online sites (such as stayz.com.au) request a copy of the title deed for the property so they can check this against the true owner names.  Always a good sign.

To avoid being scammed by bogus holiday rentals, follow these steps to check if a holiday home,  apartment or villa is genuine before booking.

How can I check if a holiday rental property is real?

  • If booking through arental listing site the adverts may show (near the contact details at the bottom) how long the property has been advertised on the site. The length the advertiser has been on the site is usually a good indicator of the owners experience. The longer the better.
  • Is the holiday rental home listed on other online booking sites?  Each time a holiday rental is listed on a site, they must undertake standard checks to prove they are legitimate.  This may include a copy of their property title deed (per above).
  • Does your holiday rental home have its own website?  Is it more than just a one pager and does it provide information on local activities and/or attractions?  Does it have a blog and newsletters?  All of these things can show a commitment to building their business and online presence.
  • Does your holiday rental home have a social media presence?  Can you find it on twitter, facebook, google+, Linked in and Youtube?  Do these listing match with what is provided on the other websites?  Is the message consistent.  If there are anomalies, investigate further.
  • Although many holidaymakers now book holidays via email and online forms without speaking to owners, speaking to someone on the phone can be reassuring that the holiday home is genuine and as advertised.  Call or email the owner/property manager and ask questions about the location, good restaurants, local beaches, nearest supermarket, tourist attractions etc. to get a feel for the place. Serious rental owners will be happy to oblige.
  • There are opinions that testimonials and reviews can be ‘phoney’ – but ones that can be verified are a good sign of trust. Some of the rental sites feature reviews from past guests, read through them and see if what they are saying matches what the property offers.
  • Do you have contact details for the owner, including both holiday let address and phone number? Although some owners will be unwilling to disclose these on their websites due to their own fraud concerns, there should be no problems getting these at the booking contract stage when the owner knows you are serious. If you have concerns, ask for a utility bill for proof of ownership.
  • Once you have these details turn to the search engines to do some research on the owner, the property, phone number etc. By entering the address into Google maps you should be able to verify the address and on some instances, use Google street view to see the actual holiday let. Do the photos on the advertisements match the images on street view?
  • Is information on the terms and conditions readily available?  The property owner/manager should send you a confirmation email, which outlines the terms and conditions of the holiday before you book.
  • Are availability calendars updated? Although some advertisers leave theirs all available to try and sell alternative dates to enquirers, a calendar showing all available could be a ‘flag’ as scammers tend to re-sell peak weeks, as these are the most expensive. If unsure, again, check with the property owner/manager.
  • If the owner has their own website, do a whois lookup which shows details of who owns the website domain. Does it match the owners details provided (mindful that some owners name their property managers rather than themselves? How long has the domain been registered for?
  • …and don’t discount word of mouth!  Know anyone who has been to your planned location recently?  Does anyone know the property?  If it has come recommended, that can be the best check of all!

Protecting payments

The level of protection you have depends on how you pay for your holiday. Consider the following payment options before you send any money.

  • Personal cheques and electronic bank transfers are the preferred method of payment for many holiday let owners, so don’t be alarmed if this is the only payment method available. However, once the cheque or money transfer is cashed, there is very little consumer protection and it will be difficult to recover funds in cases of fraud. Following the steps above and sending a cheque by post to an address, not a post box can help safeguard against fraud.
  • Some owners may have a PayPal account, which allows you pay online via credit card. Payments by PayPal are covered for 45 days after payment, so if you pay your balance 6-8 weeks before (which is standard practice) this should give you enough time to make a claim following a fraud.
  • Paying by credit card offers the most comprehensive protection from fraud. The problem is that most holiday let owners don’t offer this facility due to high costs. However, if you are booking through an agency they should offer this facility.
  • Debit cards may offer some protection, but this varies so check with your bank.
  • Be wary of paying for accommodation by untraceable methods such as a wire transfer company.  (We don’t know anyone who would!)
  • Common holiday rental payment procedure is 25% deposit and then the balance 6-8 weeks before departure. However, some have other terms and conditions.  If full payment is requested up front be wary. Obviously late bookings (ie. 6-8 weeks before departure) will require full payment, but try and use a payment method that offers protection such as PayPal or credit card.

Don’t be afraid!

Whilst we can never guarantee that you will never be scammed, by following the above avoiding holiday rental scams  – top tips, your risk of being scammed will be reduced.  As always, if it smells like fish,  looks like fish and tastes like fish, it is probably fish(y)!

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Until next time – enjoy your day wherever you are from La Maison Pacifique “The Peaceful House” and your boutique designer luxury holiday home vacation rental in Casuarina, New South Wales, Australia – half way between the Gold Coast QLD and Byron Bay NSW, Australia.

Di Hendy

Di Hendy
Property Consultant
La Maison Pacifique
Telephone – call +61 (0) 411 052 759
Mobile/Cell – call or text +61 (0) 411 052 759
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