The Internet is full of tantalising, exotic holiday escapes which are advertised to look as though you will be embracing 5-star luxury for a fraction of the price of a premium hotel.
However, holidaymakers beware – The Internet is full of scams and fake websites just waiting to take your hard-earned money.
In May this year the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre ‘Action Fraud’ stated that the number of holidaymakers losing money to booking scams grew by 20% from the previous year with almost 6000 reported cases of fraud.
This is unfortunate news for anyone overwhelmed by the multitude of online offers however, there are ways to safeguard your cash while still investing in a quality, luxury holiday with all the perks.
“You have to make sure that you are dealing with a reputable company. There are many small operators without track records offering villa rentals but I would recommend dealing with one of the long established companies like Villa Getaways or Elite Havens for example. Talking directly with the sales agent on live chat or calling on the website published phone number is also a good reality check.”
~ Ian Macaulay, Managing Director, Luxury Villas of Asia (founder and former director Elite Havens)
Here are Five Tips to Avoid being Stung by a Travel Scam
1. Use Trusted Websites
By using a direct listing villa websites rather than sites with third-party listings, such as FlipKey, HomeAway, VRBO.com and others that are similar as you will be dealing directly with the agent for that property.
2. Live Chat
Look for sites that have live chat on their websites so you can engage in real-time conversations about your requirements. A live chat option often means a business is more established and has knowledgeable sales agents able to answer relevant questions. (A scam artist will probably not know important details about the villa, services provided and the location information you would expect from a qualified villa rental agent).
3. Do Your Research
If you have searched online and become confused with the many different choices available, the best way to determine if they are legitimate is to read their online customer recommendations and call the principals to ask for references.
4. The Classic Scams
- Be on the lookout for phoney accommodation emails where the so-called “owners” ask that you book with them personally offering big discounts with reasons like “last minute cancellations” or “your booking fits perfectly into another booking”
- Scammers often list links to real villas on listing websites operated by legitimate property owners. Unbeknown to the villa owners, these sophisticated scammers are masquerading as the owners, signing their discounted offers with the owner’s name while using free email accounts registered with @gmail.com, @yahoo.com, @outlook.com, and so on, with legitimate looking words like “vacation” or “reservations” in the address.
- If you are booking via a website, be wary of fraudsters who have hacked into legitimate sites to create false ads. Con artists and hackers often create low-resolution websites with blurry images or make small changes to URLs such as changing a genuine website address to .org rather than .com or .com.au
- If a site suggests they are the only ones using a particular insurance scheme, you must only pay via bank transfer, or the method of payment looks dodgy, dig deeper and you may uncover their ruse.
5. Word Of Mouth
Reviews and testimonials are a great way to gauge whether or not you should utilise a travel booking site’s services. While certain reviews can be faked, it’s usually pretty obvious which ones are fake. Fortunately, there are plenty of genuine testimonials offering valuable information about the site you are considering using to book your next holiday. Use your intuition, if something feels wrong it often is! It may pay to call direct and dig a little deeper especially before you send any money. It is always a good idea to get referrals to reliable companies from friends who have had a good Villa rental experience.
Avoid wasting time, money and any disappointment for yourself, family and friends by choosing a well-established, reputable villa rental agency.
If you are looking for a top quality, luxury villa agency with years of experience.VillaGetaways.com is based in New Zealand (which has minimal fraud and corruption) and has been successfully providing its clients with safe and enjoyable villa rentals since 2001.