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Holiday rental scams: How to avoid bogus holiday villas

(updated December 2017)

Holidaymakers are vulnerable when booking holiday villas and apartments online, especially when looking for bargains and last-minute deals. Unfortunately, some holidaymakers only discover they have been duped when the fraudster stops all contact, or in the worst cases they arrive at the holiday villa to discover it is either booked or does not exist.

Here is an overview of the different types of holiday booking scams that catch travellers out.

How big is the problem?

  • The City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) revealed that there were 1,569 cases of holiday booking fraud reported to the police’s Action Fraud team last year.
  • HomeAway claims less than 0.1% of bookings are affected by fraud.

It is important to show caution when booking holiday villas and apartments. If there is something about the website, the property description or the owner communication that you aren’t happy about, or if the deal seems too good to be true – use your judgment. Don’t be duped. There are lots of other villas out there.

Although thousands of holiday homes are booked direct with the owner each year without a problem, you don’t want to be a victim.

To avoid being scammed by a bogus holiday rental scammer, follow these basic steps to check if an apartment or villa is genuine before booking.

How to check if a villa is genuine

  • If booking through a rental listing site, such as homeaway.co.uk, holidaylettings.co.uk or ownersdirect.co.uk the advert should show (near the contact details) how long the property has been advertised on the site. The length the advertiser has been on the site is usually a good indicator of the owners’ experience. The longer the better.
  • Although many holidaymakers now book holidays online or via email without first speaking to owners, speaking to someone on the phone can be reassuring that the holiday home is genuine and as advertised. Ask the advertiser questions about the property and its location. Can they recommend any good restaurants or local beaches? what could you do for a day out? how easy is it to get to the property? Serious rental owners will be happy to oblige and share their knowledge.
  • There are opinions that testimonials and reviews can be ‘faked’, but verified reviews are a good sign of trust. Most holiday rental listing sites feature reviews from past guests. Read through them and don’t be put off if a few are slightly negative, it’s how the owner responds that matters. Maybe ask the owner if you can contact a regular guest who will be willing to briefly discuss their experiences at the holiday home.
  • Do you have contact details for the owner, including their address and landline number? Although some owners will be unwilling to disclose these on their websites due to their own fraud concerns, there should be no problems getting these at the booking contract stage when the owner knows you are serious.
  • If you have concerns, ask for a utility bill for proof of ownership. However, some owners won’t be comfortable with this due to identity theft concerns.
  • Once you have these details turn to the search engines to do some research on the owner, the property, phone number etc. By entering the address into Google maps you should be able to verify the address and use Google street view to see the actual holiday let. Do the photos on the advertisements match the images on street view?
  • Try Rapportive (for Gmail). Use the owners email to pull other data on their social profiles. Do they match up?
  • Is there a booking contract? The advertiser should send you a booking contract to sign when you book. This outlines the terms and conditions of the holiday. Can you return this by post to the owners’ home address rather than email it?
  • Is the availability calendar updated? Although some advertisers leave their dates as ‘all available’ to try and sell alternative dates to travellers, a calendar showing all available could be ‘flag’. Scammers tend to re-advertise peak weeks at a discount, as these are the most expensive.
  • If the owner has their own website do a whois lookup by entering the website address in the search box. This shows details of who owns the website. Does it match the owners details provided to you and those on listing sites? How long has the domain been registered for? If it’s only a few weeks be cautious.
  • Is the property managed by an established villa management company who does the cleaning or meet and greet? Ask for their details so you can verify the rental.
  • You can also contact the holiday rental listing site where you found the rental as they are likely to have carried out their own verification checks on the advertiser.

Different scams to look out for

The fake advert (targeting travellers)

The scammer creates a bogus listing on a classified advertisement website or holiday rental portal for a non-existent holiday home, using details copied from genuine holiday lets. The unsuspecting traveller is offered a fantastic deal to pay a large deposit or pay in full.

In the vast majority of cases the payment method is by bank transfer. Once the payment has been made the fraudster vanishes, along with the money.

Tips for owners: Create Google Alerts for your holiday rental property name so you can monitor who is using your content. You can also follow these tips to see who is using your photos and content.

Phishing (targeting travellers & owners)

Phishing is a growing problem.

How it works: The “phisher” is able to get unauthorized access to an owner’s email account or holiday rental advert login details. They do this by sending an email that links to what appears to be a legitimate website, usually a duplicate of an email or holiday rental login page that is controlled by the phisher. Rental owners are prompted to enter their username and password. Once they have these details they take control of your account.

The fraudster then forwards rental enquiries to their email account, impersonates the owner and communicates directly with unsuspecting travellers. The real owner is none the wiser that their email has been compromised and incoming enquiries are being intercepted.

Travellers are then lured with large discounts to pay by bank transfer. Once the payment has been made the fraudster vanishes, along with the money.

Here is a good overview of what is phishing, how you can prevent it from happening to you and some examples of phishing emails.


Owners are also targeted with enquiry emails asking them to click a link e.g. to confirm that a photo is the correct one of their property, if a map shows the correct location of their property or they attach a (bogus) completed enquiry form.

When the link is clicked, owners are prompted to enter the login details for their email or holiday rental listing. Once the fraudsters have these details they take over control of the account.

What can owners do?
It can be weeks before an owner realizes that someone has access to their emails and enquiries.

  • Check for email filters that forward emails to scammers.
  • Signing up for SMS text alerts so you are notified when you receive a new enquiry from your listing adverts.
  • Set up two-step verification on your email account.
  • Never click on a link in an email from a stranger. Always login to your email, rental advert by visiting the site direct.

The overpayment scam (targeting owners)

The overpayment scam targets rental owners, catching novice holiday let landlords out.

Owners are sent payment for a booking, often via cheque, for more money than the rental amount owed. Typically the excuse is that a company is paying for the rental and has wrongfully included expenses. The guest then asks for the overpayment amount to be refunded to them.

The original cheque received isn’t real; it’s forged, or stolen and doesn’t clear, leaving you out of pocked for the ‘overpayment’ amount refunded.

What are the red flags to look out for in enquiry emails?

  • Enquiry does not correspond with your property – e.g. questions about the beach when your listing is in a ski resort or an enquiry for your villa, when it’s an apartment.
  • A business person whose company is paying for the rental.
  • They offer to pay more than your rental rate.
  • Offers to pay by cheque before you have even confirmed your property is available or the price.
  • Emails with poor grammar and spelling from English-speaking countries.
  • They give far more information than the typical traveller.
  • Tells you their occupation e.g. priest, doctor.
  • Wants to arrange a surprise trip for someone else.

A ‘special offer’ (targeting owners)

This scam also targets owners who get a call from the website where they advertise their holiday rental with the offer of an upgrade for a reduced cost. They make payment over the phone by credit card. It turns out that the call wasn’t from the listing site but a fraudster. Never give your credit card information to anyone who randomly calls you.

How to protect your payment

The level of protection you have depends on how you pay for your holiday.

Personal cheques and electronic bank transfers are traditionally the preferred method of payment for many holiday let owners, so don’t be alarmed if this is the only payment method available. However, once the cheque or money transfer has cleared, there is very little consumer protection and it will be difficult to recover funds in cases of fraud. That’s why scammers request a bank transfer.

Following the steps above and sending a check to a verified home address, not a post box, can help reduce the risk.

Some owners may take payments via PayPal, which allows you pay online via credit card. PayPal has its own buyer protection scheme – yet according to moneysavingexpert.com it is inferior to Section 75.

Credit cards have the greatest protection if you are scammed, as you can make a claim against your card provider under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. For Section 75 to apply the holiday you paid for must have cost over £100 and not more than £30,000.

If you pay using a debit card, you may be able to ask your bank to get your money back through the chargeback scheme.

Paying by credit card offers the most comprehensive protection from fraud when booking a holiday. The problem is that some holiday home owners don’t offer the option to pay by credit card due to costs. However, more owners are adapting as payment providers make it easier.

Avoid paying for accommodation by untraceable methods such as wired money transfers by companies like Western Union.

Common holiday rental payment procedure is 25% deposit and then the balance 6-8 weeks before departure. If full payment is requested upfront for a reduced rate – be cautious. Obviously late bookings will require full payment, but try and use a payment method that offers protection such as credit card.

Some owners who live on site may allow cash on collection of the keys, although most won’t due to the risk of no-shows

What protection is there for travellers who book direct?

Booking through some holiday rental portals, classified ad sites and individual owner websites offers limited protection, as they are unlikely to be an Abta or Atol bonded travel company. In addition, standard travel insurance does not normally cover fraud.

So what consumer protection is there when booking a holiday rental?

When contacted about victims being scammed on their sites, holiday letting portals state that they are simply an advertising portal where travellers are directed to owners directly. Unless owners and travellers use the online booking feature, listing sites don’t have involvement in the booking or payment.

When phishing results in a traveller being scammed, it’s likely that the e-mail/account login was probably compromised on the owner’s end, not the listing site.

When booking through a holiday letting site check whether they offer a rental guarantee – what it covers and any terms and conditions (loopholes). Note that flights, car hire etc. are unlikely to be covered.

Using HomeAway sites, including Ownersdirect

From their site:

In the highly unlikely case you should fall victim to a scam on our site and are not covered by other means, HomeAway.co.uk will reimburse up to 50% of the rental fee you have paid, to a maximum of £700.

You will be automatically covered by the HomeAway.co.uk Basic Rental Guarantee when you make an enquiry about a property on our site.

Travellers can also buy add-on fraud protection insurance when booking a holiday home, offered by Europ Assistance.

When pay for your holiday rental via Online Payments (look out for properties with the ‘Book Now’ or ‘Request Booking’ button), payments are automatically covered against internet fraud up to £10,000. However, 44% of bookings aren’t online yet – though the goal is for all rentals to be online by 2016.

HomeAway is also working on moving communications between owners and travellers into a secure, authenticated environment on the HomeAway site.

What to do if you are a victim of a rental scam?

How to get your money back after a scam.

First, contact the listing website where you booked the rental to see if they offer a rental guarantee.

If you paid by credit card you can claim your money back from your card provider via Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. If you paid by debit card you may be able to reclaim your cash via your card provider’s Chargeback scheme.

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely you’ll get your money back if you’ve been scammed and paid via bank transfer or wired money transfer.

If you’re the victim of a travel-related fraud, report it to Action Fraud (or by calling 0300 123 2040) and to Trading Standards. However, in many instances no action will be taken.

It’s unlikely that standard travel insurance will cover booking fraud, but you should check the terms and conditions of your individual policy just to be certain.

To summarise:

It appears that the main holiday rental and letting portals are taking steps to reduce villa rental scams by verifying owners, securing communications and pushing for properties to be booked online.

There is certainly scope for further protection for people booking holiday rentals. The responsibility should not be placed on the holidaymaker to carry out extensive checks.

Ideally the holiday rental portals should provide a rental guarantee for all of the properties listed on their websites, regardless of how they are booked.

The safest way for travellers to avoid scams is to pay by credit card or take out fraud insurance at the time of booking the holiday.

Although villa rental scams do happen, HomeAway claims less than 0.1% of bookings are affected by fraud. However, you don’t want to be part of that 0.1%. When looking to book your next holiday home follow the advice above.

As always, we welcome your comments below which will help other travellers.


  • Rob |

    Great tips. I have looked into paypal and found one potential pitfall for owners – customers can make a “chargeback” after they have stayed in the property. I hope the people who do this are few and far between though.

    • Phil |

      Hi Rob,

      Interesting point, I’m not sure if this also applies to credit cards?

      This could be problem when taking payments for last minute bookings without verifying guests. By posting key collection details to an address, at least the owner will have proof of address to dispute chargeback’s.

  • Nick |

    Useful Tips

    We offer all our owners free online booking software that allows them to take credit cards which connects to Paypal to process the payment.

    The owners have the option of charging an administrative fee that covers the credit card costs and I am sure the holidaymaker is only too happy to pay the extra for peace of mind.

    We also guarantee the payment in case of any subsequent problems with Paypal but in the years we have been operating this we have never had a holidaymaker making a chargeback claim with Paypal.

    • Phil |

      Hi Nick,

      Thanks for your comment. Seems like you are taking some positive steps to protect payments. Hopefully other holiday rental portals will adopt such measures.


  • John |

    Validation schemes like the seal of approval scheme run by yourholidaymatters.com can play a very positive part here as well. Equally Visit Britain assessements for example can only be achieved if visited by an inspector, so a VB Star rated property does at least exist, and you can check it’s not a scam by looking for the property on the VB site itself!

  • Andy |

    Some good advice here. The whois tip is especially good because it provides a way to see who owns the website. I would always advocate paying with a credit card. That way the consumer is protected and can charge back any payment.
    I would also suggest that consumers check with listing websites what checks they have done before allowing someone to advertise. It has aleways been my opinion that some of these sites, although clearly not involved directly, actually facilitate the fraud because their checks are simply not good enough. That includes and actually is led by the really big sites; corporate giants that are interested in profit over and above consumer security.

  • Paul |

    It’s good to see that more and more listing sites are starting to ‘take notice’ of the problem and are vetting owners a bit more before listing them.

    Pure Holiday Homes recently launched a scheme where they verify owners and highlight those owners on their website so that they stand out from the rest.

    • Philip |

      Yes, it’s good to see some sites ‘verifying’ more thoroughly. Should the market leaders offer consumers a form of free ‘booking guarantee refund’ in the event of being a fraud victim via an ad on their site?

      I expect the ‘main players’ in the holiday rental market will offer online booking/payments in the future which should solve some of the problems. This is probably a few years off yet though.

  • Andrew |

    Its still a real problem for people who want to rent a holiday home. Just over 50% of the U.K market prefer to book their holiday home direct with a bonded agent to prevent just this problem.

  • Alex Riston |

    I would agree with all the points in this article. We have two rental villas in Northern Cyprus and frequently rent to people from outside the UK, so it would be particularly handy to be able to take credit cards from our perspective, as much as the buyer. Recently, we thought we had the answer, as one of the major holiday rentals websites now gives us the option of offering payment by visa or MasterCard even when the bookings are from our adverts elsewhere. Initially this looked very attractive, as the cost to us was only 2% of the rental price. However, we discovered that the company forced our guests to pay an additional 4.5% during a lengthy sign-up process, meaning even Paypal would have been cheaper, in absolute terms. If someone were to set up a reasonably priced system to enable holiday home owners to take credit card, they will be filling a very large gap in the market.

    • Philip |

      Alex, I agree that there is a gap in the market to be filled with regards to online payments for holiday rentals. From what I recall, one of the major holiday rental portals have introduced a solution in the US…not sure when/if it will rolled out to Europe?

  • Laura |

    Just spent 3 days trying to verify apartment. Owner only been advertising on website 3 weeks, lots of availability, very little detail. 50 % deposit and wanted Bank transfer to wifes account(different name). Asked lots of questions and queried address, owner stopped communicating! Was this possible fraud or did he get fed up with the questions, I’ll never know. Wish there was an easy way to verify, we may have missed out on the best apt. we’ve ever had the chance of OR maybe narrowly missed being a victim. We’ll never know.

    • Fiona Biggs |

      An owner should be prepared to answer lots of questions, especially if there is a lot of availability for the property, so I think yo have avoided being scammed This is our first year renting our property and we enter into long correspondence with our renters. The tip about checking the domain registration is a good one, if there is a website – most scammers won’t take the trouble to set up a proper website.

      • Philip |

        Hi Fiona,

        Most owners will be more than happy to answer any questions over the phone, it’s a simple but effective way for travellers to reassure themselves that the owner is genuine.

  • Carolyn |

    We went to stay in a holiday villa in Sayalonga in Spain in June 2011. Beautiful villa and the property managers very friendly but they had placed a gas cylinder underneath the BBQ that was too big for it so after it had been lit for awhile the rubber pipe leading from the cylinder caught alight ! Luckily we were quick to act and got the fire out before the cylinder exploded. At the time we had 2 children on the patio near it so the outcome could have been very serious. The property manager took responsibility for this stating it needed a smaller cylinder and that he didn’t know anything about gas BBQ’s. All would have been ok except on our return we did not receive out deposit back so we contacted the owner, from here the correspondence from him was extremely rude and blamed us for the accident and he never gave us an apology. I contacted the rental website where we booked and they said complaints needed to be dealt with through the owner! Which of course was never going to happen. We wrote a review which never got put up or did I receive any response from when we asked what had happened to it. We feel completely helpless – we were not looking for anything but we didn’t expect to be treated such contempt.

    • Philip |

      Hi Carolyn,

      It seems very harsh that a you haven’t received your deposit back, was a deduction made for the replacement pipe or the whole amount not refunded?

      Although there are two sides to every story, I expect most holiday rental owners wouldn’t deduct for such damage.

      In these situations one option is the small claims court, but for nominal amounts or when the owner lives in a different country, it’s usually not worth it. I would pursue an explanation from the owner for the deduction and the rental site for not putting the review up.

      For future reference, if there is an incident, always take photos/gather evidence to prove your case in the event of disputes.

  • Kenny Halliday |

    Hi all

    I’ve just been scammed on a villa in Altea, Spain. I searched and found a place on (website removed by admin).

    I sent an email on their online email facility and waited for a response. I got a response from a private email with my original online email enquiry attached.

    So I thought this was all legitimate and continued through with payment. I had trouble with Western Union and requested a bank account to transfer into from NZ. I was sent a TSB account but the extra charges put me off. Anyway, I paid $1,380nz through Western Union and it was picked up from the other end in the UK. I then subsequently received an email and phone call from the actual villa owners (I think because I don’t know who to trust now), saying that they hadn’t sent any payment instructions and they don’t use the email address. ALARM bells and tracing emails has resulted in being stitched up.

    Any help and advice to recover any of this money would be greatly appreciated.


  • Fiona Biggs |

    I think it’s a bit unfair to struggling holiday rental owners to say that not having been on a rental website for a number of years may flag up a scam. We all have to start somewhere! If it’s a non-commission-taking site you’ll have the owner’s contact details – phone them and talk to them, ask them about the area, the facilities etc. and even ask for more photos if things described on the site don’t appear in any of the pics (we’ve been asked for these and have taken and provided them) – this shouldn’t be a problem in these days of digital photography. A genuine owner will ALWAYS be prepared to engage with you. Rent through a site that has an online payment facility – the background check on the owner is quite rigorous. The small percentage (2–3%) cost is usually added to the tariff, but it should be worth it for peace of mind.

    • Philip |

      Hi Fiona, not being on a rental site for long is just one of the signs, when combined with others outlined in the post may warrant further checks. In previous scams websites/ads were setup to dupe travellers in a short space of time before they were discovered and taken down. I agree, engaging with owners is a great way to get reassurance. Although booking through a site that has an online payment facility can safeguard payment, to-date they aren’t widely adopted by owners (around 2%) on the leading rental site.

  • David Spickett |

    (site removed by admin) so email enquiries go to ConArtists posing as owners

    We have recently been a victim of Internet Fraud when trying to book a villa in spain through (site removed by admin). We used (site removed by admin) as we felt sure they were a safe and secure method of enquiring to Villa owners. However due to their enquiry page being hacked we were actually corresponding with con artists who posed as the owners and we have lost £1600 paying for a fake booking.

    6 weeks ago on April 9th 2013 we sent 6 or so emails to prospective villa owners enquiring about their properties. We received multiple replies and eventually settled on a Villa owned and managed by (name removed by admin).

    We negotiated the price via one phone call and several emails before agreeing the price. We were then sent bank details to transfer the funds.

    One week before going we contacted (name removed by admin) to enquire about arrival details and this time the number on the emails was dead. We found an alternative number through the web and finally got hold of him. This time we spoke to the REAL (name removed by admin) rather than the con artists. (name removed by admin) has said that his account through (site removed by admin) has been hacked and the email must be being diverted and all this time we have been dealing with Con Artists.

    We are now 3 days from supposedly going away with no Villa and no money having lost £1600 to the scam.

    I am not hopeful of getting the money back and i find it appalling that (site removed by admin) do not have good enough online security to stop their accounts being hacked. Being powered by (site removed by admin) i would have expected a high level of security and them to be able to spot a breach which could potentially cost thousands of holiday makers.

    Please be aware of this scam and pay via Paypal or credit card. We followed every other piece of advise by calling and getting contracts but if the con artist is posing as the owner this advice is worthless. The only protection is to pay by a means which covers fraud!

    Thanks very much (site removed by admin), we will now be stuck in the UK having lost over £3,000 including flights, hire car etc.


    • Philip |

      Hi David, I’m sorry to hear that you have been a victim of what appears to be a phishing scam (see links in my comment above).

      Have you reported this to Action Fraud? visit http://www.actionfraud.police.uk

  • Andy Wills |

    You mention that there are also holiday insurance products available that provide more comprehensive protection against rental fraud, but this costs extra. Do you know which companies offer this, as Google has failed me?

    • Philip |

      Hi Andy, Europ assistance offer a product, it’s offered on Homeaways’ site. As always with insurance, check the terms and conditions and that the cover is suitable for your needs.

  • Anne Phelps |

    I rented holiday let in Cyprus, last year 2012, and I am still trying to get her to return my money. This owner lives in Cumbria. Her statements on her web sites are untrue, and it is not till you arrive at the property did we find out how much she lied for instance she advertises that the property as having lifts, when you arrive it only has one lift, and that has been declared unsafe, by the Developer, as she is refusing to pay the service charge, this only a another problem she not inform us of the building site opposite, she had been reported to to her by another person, back in July 2012.
    Any advice on this would be helpful

    • Philip |

      Hi Anne,

      Sorry to hear of your experience. There are two sides to every story and often in this situation the small claims court is one option. Hope you resolve the situation amicably.

  • Mary Craddock |

    We rent out our condo in Orlando. We have never had a problem with payment, however, we have a guest due to stay there next Mon, 23/12/13 for a week. Despite constant reminders, he has not paid his balance. His last communication said that he was going on a cruise, ending in Orlando and could he pay in resort. I replied, no, as the condo belongs to us. He still hasn’t paid despite us telling him that we will cancel his stay. Are we within our rights to do this? He will arrive at the resort where our condo is situated, and the staff there will have to refuse him entry. This seems unfair on them, but if this person doesn’t reply to any emails, I don’t see what other choice there is. We have a phone number for him, but no reply there either.

    • Philip |

      Hi Mary, I’m not sure what your rights are, that’s one for a legal expert. I would keep any evidence you can to support your efforts to communicate with the guest. What do your terms and conditions say with regards to (late) payments? Hope everything works out for you.

  • Rebecca |

    Some really great advice. It’s a shame really that users have to take such measures as listing sites should really be providing solutions to increasing their security and preventing email phishing scams or allowing fraudulent listings to be created.

    Something as simple as requiring a scanned utility bill with the owner’s details on and address of the property as proof of ownership, or, like eBay, setting up their own in-house communication function to prevent email hacking.

  • Steve Tagg |

    Well it looks like I won’t now be taking my two eldest children – 10 and 7 – skiing in 9 days. My brother booked a villa through (removed by admin) for 7 of us…and it turns out that the guy ran off with our money.
    We only discovered this when my brother tried to confirm directions. When he couldn’t get through, he phoned (removed by admin) – eventually getting through. Despite their assurances about offering a “secure” service, it appears that the host was able to phish via the site. (removed by admin) apparently said there was a “technical problem” with the owner. A responsible intermediary, in my view, would have proactively sought out renters who might have been impacted by the so called technical problem. I suppose I should be grateful that we didn’t turn up to a locked villa. Hopefully the Christmas skiing clothes will still fit next Winter.

  • Saara |

    Just back from a holiday from Isle of Wight, a group of 15, we reached the destination and realised that we were the targets of holiday booking fraud, stranded on an island with nowhere to go, one of our friends had transferred the money to the lady. She had talked on phone and looked genuine. Were are lucky that we got another accommodation, but not sure if we will ever get our money back.

  • NealeBlackburn |

    Have negotiated to rent a cottage in Tuscany..
    30% deposit now – balance on arrival – deposit to be paid by bank transfer. After some tooing and frowing we were able to reserve and then the site prompts for credit card details?
    Just had a call from the agent.. credit card details are required as a good faith guarantee to secure the property whilst the bank transfer proceeds..
    They won’t supply bank details required for transfer until the credit card details are entered on the system?
    This sounds a bit iffy to me… i don’t want to lose a nice rental property but I am not keen to put my full credit card details in and effectively hand over the keys to my bank account.. or is it just me?

    • Philip |

      Hi, have you done the checks mentioned in this post to verify the site/owner? What site are you booking from – is it trusted? Why would they want credit card details and a bank transfer, seems strange. Credit cards offer more security but be wary of handing details over to strangers.

  • amir malik |

    I have booked an apartment in london through (removed by admin) and made £294 bank transfer. But never received any apartment details or refund. Basically website is fraud, reason of my post is to inform others about this scam website but also asking a question is there anyway I can get my refund.

  • J. Marques |

    To all holiday makers planing to rent a property in Portugal for next year please be aware that from the 29 November 2014 a new national law will come out that prohibits any property to be rented without an official license, registration number and a AL signed installed on the front door. Any advert online must have this license number and registration number.
    Holiday makers renting properties without this mandatory requirements, if confronted by local authorities may be forced to leave the place and the owners will be forced to pay a fine that can reach €30.0000.
    Hope this helped
    J. Marques
    Holiday rental property owner

    • Philip |

      Thanks for the update, although I understand the new rules are still unclear for many owners. I would be surprised if local authorities would force holidaymakers to leave a rental, but fines for those owners who don’t comply are likely. Advice for holidaymakers – check if the rental owner is licensed and legal, for owners – seek professional legal advice to ensure compliance with the law. There is some good advice here http://portugalresident.com/highlights-of-the-new-local-lodging-legislation

  • Denise |

    We have just booked direct with an apartment owner in Spain and having read all of this I’m now paranoid! The site offers fraud insurance, but having read the small print, it only covers you if you paid the deposit less than 7 days ago, and we paid it 11 days ago :-(. The property has been listed since 2008, but only one review listed. I have chatted with the owner on a UK landline number. She hasn’t sent me any kind of contract so far or given me address details for the apartment yet. She ‘sounds’ genuine, but now I’m nervous. Our dates have been blocked off on the web page calendar, and I have noticed another date has been blocked off since presumably another booking.

    • Philip |

      I would follow up if you don’t receive a booking confirmation and contract shortly. If you have concerns contact the listing site to verify the owner. Bear in mind that scams are rare compared to the number of successfull private holiday rentals booked.

  • Jan Robinson |

    Hi. I have read with interest the posts on phishing scams. I found out yesterday that I have been a victim of this, having paid just short of £7000.00 for a villa in Portugal in Nov 2014 for 14 of us to stay for our wedding in Aug this year (2015) to a bank account via International bank transfer with online banking. I contacted the villa owner through (name removed by admin) website and had been liaising with villa owner directly via email but never contacted her by phone until last week when she wasn’t responding to several emails. The criminals hacked into the owners email account and were emailing me directly and intercepting my emails to her after I asked about how to pay for the villa. (name removed) will only offer £700 compensation, despite the fact that it was in the press last year and BBC Watchdog in Nov 2014 that this issue is rife and hundreds of people have been conned out of money using their site. The villa owner knew nothing of the problems and has been using the site for 4 yrs. I’ve reported to Action Fraud online, and gave a very detailed account to my banks Fraud Operations Team yesterday and they put my case to a committee which will decide whether to reimburse the money to me. I have to wait a week. Looking today at my holiday insurance and the wedding insurance I took out neither of them cover for fraudulent activity so I doubt I can claim via them. I’m posting to share my experience so others know what I have tried in case they find themselves in the same circumstances, but also to see whether you have any experience/heard of people ever having a refund from the (name removed) website, or have claimed via the owners public liability insurance (I’m going to contact the owner now to see if they have). I’m really angry that the security precautions re payment to villa owners and phishing scams are not more prominent on the website. Apparently one newspaper article online says that the villa website in question has £21 million associated with it – lost to customers because of email phishing and scams.

    • Philip |

      Sorry to hear about your experience. I hope you get some form of recompense. Although there are insurance policies available to protect against fraud, they can’t be taken out after the event. Ideally the listing sites should underwrite against fraud. Maybe a future development? Keep us updated on the outcome as it may help other victims.

  • Mel |

    I’m pretty certain that we have fallen victims to scam too. We found the property in a Miami Beach through a major holiday rental listing website and asked for availability through the messaging system. I received an instand message, saying that they don’t use the messaging system and that I would receive a response on my personal e-mail address. Once we received a period and offer that suited us, I had also spoken to them on the phone, I was sent a paypal link via e-mail. Paid a down payment of $500 from my credit card into their paypal account to secure the place. Receipt of the payment was confirmed and I signed an acrobat rental document – not on headed paper and in poor English. Further payments of the outstanding balance due 90 and 45 days before the travel. I now suddenly had a feeling of doubt, it’s a very special birthday trip and we are traveling with my 2-year old daughter, I don’t want to arrive in Miami to find closed doors in high season. So, I have tried to find out their company reg. no., which can’t be found anywhere and they refuse to provide. Spoke to them again and was advised to email my request. No response. Called the hotel within the resort and got a very cagey response that they didn’t know of anything and didn’t want to be associated with that matter in any form. Spoke to the property listing website who told me there was nothing to worry about as I spoke to them in person and they had been a member since 2006. Sent 2 more emails, one in response to their emails and the same via the listing site’s message centre. No response. No response so far either from the rental site’s service centre. Now I wonder, how on earth the property manager in Miami got hold of my private e-mail address in the first place! I think, they are connected! Certainly not paying the rest of the holiday and will book something else. But without actual proof of fraudulent activity, my credit card provider will not refund me the $500.

  • Christina |

    Whilst enquiring about various holiday rentals from a few sites I had an email from a ‘property manager’ by the name of Robert, offering me a a recent cancellation in the area I was looking for. I was sent a link to the property but the property was already familiar to me as I had contacted the owner directly who said they weren’t free. I contacted the owner again who confirmed they do not know ‘Robert’ and that the villa still wasn’t free. Upon further inspection, even though the website link opened to look exactly like the Holiday Rental web page, the address was different. and running it through scamadviser.com alerted me to the fact that it was a high risk site only created over a week ago! I have not given any money fortunately but in the initial stages of booking i did give my home address details as well as telephone number and email, so slightly concerned as to how this could be used.

    • Philip |

      Well spotted and thanks for mentioning the scamadvisor site. Cutting and pasting some text from a website or classified ad should list any duplicates where you can check if the contact details are the same, anything suspicious. Copyscape is also useful.

  • richard |

    Ok, so have been around the houses (‘scuse the pun !) trying to find out if a bank transfer is covered by either home or travel insurance… no joy. Does anyone have recommendation for separate insurance outside of travel insurance to guard against fraud ?

  • Rachel Shorland |

    Iv just returned form a holiday in Tenerife. I booked a Villa that didn’t exist and its a uk crime. Its been reported to Action Fraud and my bank. We lost £1760 by booking it on a fake web site. Theres no category for this under holiday insurance, the bank can’t refund you and the Website is still up!! There is a Property Rental Scam sight i found where its been reported before with the same company, but if the sight is still there how will people know!! Im an experienced booker of holidays and in hindsight i can see the discrepancies in the booking now, but it was last minute, i was stressed before xmas and busy and just thought it was ok!!! People are loosing thousands and it doesn’t seem to be getting the criminals doing this to people. Iv got Email evidence, the link to said Villa, crime numbers etc…

    • Philip |

      Sorry to hear this. Hopefully the site will be removed from the internet soon and the scammers are caught.

  • bob kirwin |

    I booked an apartment in Tenerife that advertised a pool. There were six photos on the website however for the two weeks we were there the pool was closed and empty.
    I asked for refund of an appropriate sum from the apartment managers and they have responded by telling me they will report me to British police for attempting extortion.
    Suggestions welcome.

  • Tina mahoney |

    Hi I have booked a villa in Portugal for June this year we have paid the deposit through PayPal and I have received by email a form to fill in passport details for each guest, I found the villa on owners direct but have book through the owner direct I was a little suspicious so went back on owners direct to find the property and couldn’t so I emailed the owner to say I wanted to look at photos again but the property was not on the site, she said that happens sometimes I will go and change it again she gave me a mobile number so I could contact her through WhatsApp and she gave me another website that I could view the villa on so I checked that out seemed all ok and photos were the same as on owners direct, we are now less than six weeks away so I contacted Lorraine the manager to arrange final balance and she has said because we had paid the deposit through PayPal to avoid further charges we could pay the balance on arrival at the villa my question is this normal and how would I check if maybe this villa is the victim of someone advertising it without the owners knowledge and we arrived and the villa is already booked!

    • Philip |

      The property should be on owners direct until the advertiser removes it or doesn’t renew, it doesn’t simply disappear for no reason. Each advert has a unique reference number which makes it easy to find. Contact owners direct to see if they can verify the listing (you should have a record of the advert from your original enquiry). What other sites is the property listed on e.g. Homeaway, AirBnb? Contact them to see if the property/owner can be verified. Is the contact phone number/email etc. you have the same? With regards to paying and fees, it’s now illegal for a UK company which is selling to UK consumers to charge credit card fees. Most owners include any credit fees in the rental rate. Paying cash on arrival is ok, but only if you are 100% sure that everything is genuine. Do you have a booking contract?

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