By now you should be aware of Internet Fraud when Booking Online. In recent years there has been a huge increase in holiday villa fraud. A recent survey revealed that one in three internet users failed to check whether the company they booked with was a member of a recognised travel association. Advertisements for non-existent apartments, or for genuine properties not owned by the advertiser are typically posted on various lettings and advertising sites – the resultant victims of such scams are often unable to claim compensation.
Reducing the risks
The safest way to book accommodation is through a tour operator as part of a package holiday. When booking directly with owners, use my tips for booking your holiday villa online.
- It is vital to speak to the owners on the phone – their number should be provided (ideally a landline number as this gives more security than a mobile). You should query for details about the property, the area etc, and gauge how knowledgeable and trustworthy the owner seems to be. Request their postal address – a signed contract should be identifiable with an actual address.
- Verify any details on the internet to establish more information about the owner, or trace any complaints about them.
- Use your instincts, if there is something about the website, the property description or the owners that you are dubious about, then don’t book.
- Check reviews by other renters, either on the advertisers site or on TripAdvisor. Some negative reviews at least show the owner is not trying to hide anything, although the positive reviews should clearly out number the negative ones.
- Check how long the villa has been advertised – the longer it has been on the books, the more likely it is to be legitimate.
- Use Google or Bing maps to confirm the location of the villa, Street view can be used to check the property matches the pictures posted online or in the brochure.
- Wire transfers should be avoided when paying for deposits or balances as these can be untraceable. PayPal is more secure and has a purchase protection scheme that covers you against fraud for up to to 45 days. Even better is if your PayPal account is linked to your credit card then your card issuer is liable for any fraud (you will be covered under the Consumer Credit Act).
- Do not exchange any money without receiving and checking that you are happy with the written contract. Ensure you understand the terms for returning or calling on the deposit. A deposit should not be ridiculously expensive.
Arriving at the Villa
- Check the property for any damage, ideally in the company of the owner or managers. Photographs should be taken of any damage.
- Claim the deposit back on departure and get receipts for any deductions.