November 2011: SCAMwatch is joining the UK Metropolitan Police Service in warning of online accommodation booking scams in the lead up to the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.
How the scam works
Scammers can exploit the high demand for accommodation during the games by setting up fake websites, posting fake ads for hotel rooms and holiday rentals on genuine websites, or offering fake accommodation/ticketing packages.
The accommodation offered may not actually exist or be available.
In previous rental and accommodation scams, scammers have posed as property owners, booking agents, or landlords and posted fake copies of genuine rental property advertisements on classified, accommodation and travel websites.
If you respond to the fake ads the scammer will ask for upfront payments such as bond, rent payments or deposits in advance.
Some scammers have also requested copies of personal identification documents, or other personal information which can be used to commit identity fraud.
Victims never receive the keys to the property and the scammer disappears with their money.
Beware also of websites offering scam ticket sales. The only secure way to buy a ticket is from the London 2012 ticketing website, or your country’s National Olympic Committee or National Paralympic Committee which can be found on the official London 2012 ticketing website.
Book accommodation directly with an established hotel or reputable travel company using their official contact details.
Research the property/hotel you are booking using internet searches and online maps to verify that the address exists. Check if official images match those in the advertisement.
Request a number of photos of the property from the agent, if they refuse it may be that they have stolen a photo from a genuine ad and have no others.
If you want to use an agent or a website to book accommodation, research them online first. Check reviews and blog posts as many known scams can be identified this way.
Don’t trust the legitimacy of an accommodation ad just because it appears on a reputable website—scammers post fake ads on these too.
Where possible, avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer or international funds transfer. It is rare to recover money sent this way.
Do an internet search using the exact wording in the accommodation ad—many well-known scams can be found this way.
For rental properties, insist on inspecting the property - a drive-by is not enough. The property may genuinely exist, but it might be owned by someone else.
You can report scams to the ACCC via the report a scam page on SCAMwatch or by calling 1300 795 995.
View the UK Metropolitan Police Service’s warning on Olympic and Paralympic Accommodation Fraud.