The holiday home scam, how to recognize it and protect yourself

When summer approaches, we often hear about the “vacation rental scam“, a scam that occurs online and affects those who are looking for accommodation for their summer accommodation.
This kind of scam can happen in different modessome of which are very widespread and allow us to recognize the scam: from the owner who says he has moved abroad, to those who ask to conclude transactions outside the booking app, up to the most sensational cases of non-existent or “stolen” homes from other adverts.
Although it does not hide a complex mechanism, it is one very common scam and effective, especially because the victim himself seeks out and finds the scam.

Let’s see in this article how they work various types of this scamwhat details allow us to recognize it in time and what to do if unfortunately we happen to take the bait.

The holiday home scam and its different scenarios

When we look for accommodation for the summer, we usually turn to sites we trust and, among the various adverts available, we look for the most attractive one for quality And price.

Example of a fraudulent holiday home advert

Let’s take the example of the apartment shown in the figure above. This is a beautiful house and very economical to be a week in August at the seaside. The announcement contains all the details in great detail.

So where is the scam? Let’s look at the possible scenarios.

The owner who moved abroad

A very frequent case is that in which the owner tells us about to have as soon as transferred abroad. It is however initially available and seems extremely fulfilling, often a is also sent contract fictitious to give us the impression that everything is extremely rigorous. Most of the time he tries to complete your booking quickly and then the payment of the deposit which will be paid into an international account, because as he told us, the owner has just moved.

Once paid the deposit the owner disappears and the foreign account is difficult to trace. But not only that: the documents we provided for the contract could be used by the scammer to create fake identities for future scams.

Payment outside the app

Another common case is the one in which we are asked to move there reservation to the day outside the app or site on which we found the advert.

This method is based on convenience: by leaving the app, we would save booking costs, while the owner will save management costs. Leaving the platforms, however, is very risky if we don’t know who we are dealing with, why and they protect us from possible scams. If we choose to pay privately instead, we are not covered if the owner disappears with the deposit.

Home exchange and ghost house

Then there are less common cases, but perhaps worse from a practical point of view. I’m the case of the home exchange and of ghost house. In the first case we arrive at the holiday resort and the owner tells us that the house had a problem and he changes our accommodation to an uglier oneso in the end you pay for a service you won’t have.

mountain house

In the second case, instead we arrive at the indicated address e the property does not exist. The photos were stolen from another internet advert for an existing house, but not at that address or in that location.

Cases of phishing in booking apps

It is also very widespread phishing practice within booking apps, i.e. fictitious emails or messages which however appear to be sent from official sites. Gods appear in these messages scam links, that is, which link to sites that reproduce the official site. By clicking on the link, we come redirected to a site very similar to the original one and – thinking we are paying correctly – we are actually giving our money away to the scammer.

How to recognize and prevent scams

They are different clues which can help us understand that we are faced with a scam:

  1. The owner says he lives abroad: as said at the beginning, this detail should make us suspicious;
  2. they ask us to conclude the negotiation outside the siteso as to lose any guarantee;
  3. a owner too compliantwho for example sends us a formal contract even though it is just a few days’ rent, may mean that we are faced with a consolidated scam;
  4. there lack of contacts – if for example only email and no telephone contact is indicated – it is to be viewed with suspicion.

In addition to these clues, we must always keep in mind that no one gives us anything! So if an offer seems incredibly good to us, it’s probably a scam.

How to protect ourselves from “fake” houses

There are a number of precautions useful tips that we can adopt to avoid falling victim to this scam:

  1. let’s check the reviews: if there are many and varied, we can generally rest assured;
  2. we can check the property rented on google maps: by entering the address indicated, you can see if the house exists or corresponds to the descriptions or photos;
  3. it’s possible check data they provide to us: starting from the email that may be suspicious, there are sites and applications where we can enter the telephone number or IBAN and they provide us with some information, for example where the bank to which the IBAN is associated is located;
  4. on google lens – that is, an image search engine – you can search for images on the internet, that is, by inserting them into the search engine, we are told all the sites where the photos appear. If the house has been “stolen” from another advertisement relating to another location, we find out immediately
  5. we always pay through secure channels and traceable, i.e. avoiding using prepaid cards or top-ups and, preferably, through the official platform with which you are booking, choosing reliable, known and recognized platforms.

It is very effective because it is the victim who actively searches for the house

The holiday home scam is perhaps one of the most insidious due to its simplicity. The scammer does not need to be an expert computer scientist to operate it. It is enough for him to steal the right information from the web and make his ad sufficiently credible.

But this scam has a particular “ace up its sleeve”: it is a active scam, in the sense that it is the victim herself who needs a home for your holidays and therefore to look for and stumble across in fraudulent ads looking for a good opportunity for their holidays.

active scam

How to fix it if we fall victim to the scam

The first thing to do if we fall victim to the holiday home scam is report what happened to Police post, attaching as much evidence as possible regarding the fraudulent behavior of the fake tenant. The offending properties also go promptly reported to the platform on which we found them, so that the ads are removed and do not claim any more victims. Furthermore, if the scam is for example due to a phishing casewe can ask the application for a refund of booking itself.