Watch out when booking your winter getaway

9 May 2013

SCAMwatch is warning consumers to be wary when making plans for a holiday escape this winter.
 
SCAMwatch has received reports that scammers continue to target would-be travellers with holiday rental accommodation scams.
 
Scammers are setting up fake online listings for rental properties to try and lure unsuspecting consumers into parting with their money. With these scams you pay for your accommodation, but the property either does not exist or, if it is real, the owner knows nothing about your booking.
 
Scammers are also reportedly hacking into popular holiday rental or travel websites in order to intercept emails between interested travellers and legitimate accommodation providers so that you send your money to the scammer instead of the owner.
 
SCAMwatch advises would-be travellers to be on guard and do their homework when considering any holiday rental offer.

How these scams work

There are a variety of scams out there targeting would-be travellers. Common travel scams to look out for are outlined below.

Holiday voucher scams

  • You are approached by a stranger over the phone, by email or even in person offering to sell you vouchers for heavily discounted holiday accommodation.
  • The accommodation is usually for holiday destinations popular with Australians such as Phuket, Koh Samui and Bali.
  • If you purchase a voucher, you may never receive it, or find that upon arrival at your destination the owner has no knowledge of the deal.

Holiday hacking scams

  • Scammers hack into popular holiday rental or travel websites to access email inquiries that you have sent to holiday accommodation providers/ owners.   
  • The scammer then assumes the identity of the property owner and steers you into paying them the rental fees in return for a bogus booking.
  • When you arrive at your holiday destination, the real owner has no record of the ‘booking’ and you are left with nowhere to stay.

Fake listings scams

  • You visit a reputable online accommodation service provider where you come across an ad offering a property for rent at a really cheap price.
  • The offer may use fake copies of genuine ads to try and trick you into thinking it’s the real deal.
  • The ‘seller’ asks for payment to be made via money transfer.
  • If you take up the offer, you find that upon arrival at your destination the owner has no knowledge of the deal, and might not even rent out the property.

Protect yourself

While it may be hard at times to distinguish between legitimate business people and scammers, there are things you can do to help ensure that your dream holiday doesn’t turn into a nightmare.

  • Be cautious – if the price looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Do your homework – contact the company directly using contact details you sourced independently through a phone book or online search.
  • Don’t trust the legitimacy of an ad just because it appears in a reputable newspaper or online classifieds website – scammers often use these.
  • If you receive an email out of the blue from a stranger offering a great holiday deal, do not click on any links or open attachments – just press ‘delete’.
  • Pay attention to the details – check the URL is the legitimate website, and confirm that names and addresses mentioned match up with publically available information.
  • Always keep your computer security up to date with anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a good firewall.
  • If you think you have provided your financial details or sent money to a scammer, contact your financial institution immediately.

Report

You can report a scam to the ACCC via the report a scam page on SCAMwatch.

More information

For information on travelling safely, visit the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Smart Traveller website http://www.smarttraveller.gov.au/.
 
SCAMwatch has previously issued the following radars on holiday rental accommodation scams:

Stay one step ahead of scammers, follow @SCAMwatch_gov on Twitter or visit http://twitter.com/SCAMwatch_gov.

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