It’s something you always hear about in the papers, but you tell yourself it’s never going to happen to you. In this case, I am of course talking about holiday letting scams.
The sad fact of the matter is that every year, families fall victim to fraudulent holiday listings that see them lose out on thousands of pounds.
But don’t let that put you off booking a holiday let – after all, most self catering holiday lets provide a genuine, affordable way to make memories you’ll treasure forever.
In the past, even I’ve had guests who have contacted me to confirm the existence of my holiday lets, because they had fallen victim to scams before.
That’s why I thought I’d provide the following tips on how you can avoid holiday letting scams, and go on to have a lovely self-catering holiday.
1. Look at how long the listing has been up
Not all listings will have this, but usually if you’re booking via one of the big rental sites such as holidaylettings.co.uk, the listing should tell you near the bottom how long the property has been published on the site. As a rule of thumb, the longer the owner has been featured, the better.
2. Check the availability calendar
Has the holiday let been booked up, or are all the dates currently available? A calendar which shows no bookings could potentially be a red flag, as scammers often try to sell the same peak weeks to multiple customers for the most profit.
3. Talk to the owner
It’s all very well having an impressive website, but scammers use so much smoke and mirrors these days that it can sometimes be hard to tell who is genuine. Being able to pick up the phone and actually speak with the owner should go a long way to setting your mind at ease.
Ask them questions about the local area, as well as the holiday let itself. Judge whether they are comfortable talking to you and are able to demonstrate local knowledge of the area, without evading your questions.
4. Look for verified reviews, and seek out past guests
Not everything you read online can be trusted, especially when it comes to reviews. However, if you’re on larger holiday rentals sites, you should be able to see verified reviews. Still, it’s a good idea to find out if you can contact past guests so you can hear about their stay from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.
5. Get the owner’s full contact details
You should try and get as many contact details for the owner as possible, including their personal address and landline number, as well as the address of the holiday let itself. Most owners won’t share these personal details on their website, but by the time you get to the booking contract stage, they should be happy to give you these. If you are still concerned, try asking for a utility bill as proof.
6. Do your research
Now that you have the owner’s details, it’s time to take to the internet and find out all you can about the owner and property. See if you can look up the property on Google street view – is it identical to the one in the pictures provided?
If the owner has a website, try a whois lookup to see who owns the website’s domain. Check it matches the details the owner provided, and how long it has been registered for.
7. Check you will receive a booking contract
You should expect a booking contract outlining all the terms and conditions of your holiday let before booking. Once your holiday has been booked, you should then be issued with the booking contract.
8. Don’t pay the full amount upfront
It’s common for holiday lets to take a non refundable 25 per cent deposit upfront, and then the balance payment around six to eight weeks before you arrive. If you are asked to pay the full amount upfront, you have every right to be wary – unless you are booking a last minute holiday.
9. Ensure you have payment protection
Always use a payment method that offers payment protection, such as a credit card or PayPal. Some smaller holiday lets may not have credit card payments as an option due to high costs, although this method offers the highest form of protection.
Stay away from untraceable methods such as wire transfer. If the owner would prefer electronic bank transfer or a cheque, always opt for the latter, but be sure to follow all the steps above first, and ensure the cheque goes to an address, rather than a PO box.
Holiday letting scams have been featured prominently in the press recently. You should always do your best to check if a holiday let is legit before handing over your money. Follow the above tips and make sure you talk to the owner and previous guests before booking.
A background check can help reassure you that the owner is who he/she says they are, and that the property is as pictured. Always ask for a booking contract, don’t pay upfront unless its last minute, and always make sure you are financially protected from fraud when possible.
brFinally, have a fantastic holiday!