Last year, British travellers made more than 70 million trips abroad, generating a massive £43 billion for the travel industry. With that sort of money changing hands, it’s no surprise watchdogs have warned holidaymakers to be vigilent of fraudsters trying to cash-in with online-booking scams.
And with rentals abroad commonly targeted by scammers, Nick Cooper, founder of holiday villa rental company, Villa Plus, shares his tips on how to steer clear of the cons while bagging the best deal.
1. How to spot a genuine rental
Don't get caught out with fake emails or dodgy looking websites. In the digital age, it's easy for fraudsters to knock up a website or email account. Also, with the rise in private listings websites and apps it can be more difficult than ever to identify genuine rental options from fake ones so check out companies and renters. If the name looks suspicious, put it into Google and look for any mentions.
Look for an ATOL or ABTA logo or membership number on the website – these don’t just cover package holidays and are a good way of helping identify which brands are covered and willing to help if something unexpected crops up. How to book your next holiday with confidence
2. Research your villa
Say what you like about the internet, there's no doubt it makes finding people's opinions a lot easier. Check social media and review sites like TripAdvisor or Trustpilot for the villa name or company website. As well as gauging whether or not they are who they claim, you'll get a taster and reviews of where you're hoping to go.
Use a tool called a Wayback Machine to see when the website was registered or copy and paste photos into Google to check if the same images have been used to advertise villas elsewhere and could have been stolen from genuine rental companies.
Check if the website was set up when they claim. If it was registered recently but the company says it’s been established longer, it can be a major warning sign.
3. Don't rely on Google
If something appears near the top on a search engine, it doesn't mean it’s a legitimate company. If in doubt, call the villa rental company or owner and ask them specific questions about payment, fees and villa equipment.
Some fake firms pay to appear at the top of Google and other search engines, so it doesn't always indicate a trustworthy site. While the search engines try to remove these adverts, it can take time for scam adverts to be spotted so bear this in mind.
4. Call the villa company
If you're feeling nervous before booking, tell the villa company representative. Genuine booking companies will be more than happy to speak to you and provide evidence they are who they say.
If it seems to be good to be true, it usually is. Don’t feel pressured to book in a way you’re not comfortable with to lock-in a deal.
5. How to pay safely for your villa
- Before you reach for your bank card, check you're happy with the written contract. Look closely at the security deposit for your villa – does it seem unreasonable? Some fraudsters aim for your deposit alone and they might ask for a higher price than normal
- Direct bank transfers are the chosen payment method for many fraudsters. Once paid it’s difficult to enforce a refund so never pay for your villa booking via bank transfer unless you’re certain of who you are paying and what it’s for
- Check if your card is protected against fraudulent activities, most credit cards offer this service free of charge.