Accommodation Booking Site Scams
A law firm has renewed a
warning to holidaymakers booking accommodation online after users of
holiday lettings website Owners Direct handed over money for
accommodation that didn't exist or wasn't available.
AFTA’s statement that “without an AFTA travel agent, you’re on your own” has never seemed as relevant as last weekend, when a story surfaced about a massive scam perpetrated by criminals against hapless consumers making their own travel bookings.
Fairfax media broke a story about scammed Australian holidaymakers pursuing a class action lawsuit against one of Britain’s (and the world’s) largest banks – Barclays.
Rather than book through a travel agent, the story related, many prospective tourists over the past 18 months have booked holiday stays directly online. They have then gone on to wire millions of dollars into accounts with London-based Barclays Bank. The consumers thought the money was going to pay for holiday stays booked through popular holiday rental websites like HomeAway and FlipKey.
However, it seems that criminals have used “phishing” scams to hack into websites, assume the identity of holiday property owners and then steer customers to placing money directly into a Barclays Bank account run by the same criminals.
That’s a new twist on the more usual phishing scams, which seek to trick internet users into revealing their bank account details. This particular variant, it would seem, cons unwary internet bookers into making a payment to an account they believe is run by a travel accommodation provider. The account may be with a reputable bank, but the account is in fact operated by fraudsters.
Luxury Balinese villas are proving attractive bait, the Sun-Herald says. Customers think they have booked and paid, only to arrive and find the property has never heard of them.
Fairfax Media said on Sunday that a group of Australian victims and Bali villa owners have hired a top London law firm to sue Barclays over the matter. They contend that Barclays should vet the identity of its account holders.
The story quoted a Barclays Bank response: “Barclays can confirm that in opening and managing accounts, it complies with all regulatory requirements including in respect of identification and verification. When we are made aware of inappropriate conduct on accounts, we will immediately investigate and take the necessary steps to close them.
“We recognise that some consumers’ interests have been damaged as a result of the conduct of some customers and that money has been lost. Regrettably, we are unable to provide any refund for individuals who lost money before we were made aware of the situation.
The victims could have saved themselves a great deal of money and anguish by using a travel agent. Written by Peter Needham
APARTMENT RENTALS IN PARIS
There seems to be an ever increasing number of on-line scams offering furnished apartments for rent in Paris, misappropriating thousands of dollars from unsuspecting Australian travellers.
Australians are extremely fond of renting a furnished apartment in Paris for one or two weeks, to be able to live like a Parisian. Particularly families who enjoy the extra space provided as well as a fully equipped kitchen avoiding the need and the cost of eating out every night.
Scammers simply steal the text and photographs from a genuine website to create their own and offer illegally apartments at ridiculously low rates. A potential customer is required to send a deposit between 35% and 50% of the rental fee to secure the apartment. This is usually between $1000 and $3000. After that they never hear from the scammer again. A few more innovative ones will at a later stage request payment for the full balance. Then the unsuspecting customer will arrive eventually at the given address to realise that the apartment does not exist, that he lost all his money and has nowhere to stay.
There are hundreds of privately owned apartments on offer, and sometimes it is difficult to know which ones are genuine. However there are a few giveaway signs to warn the unweary:
How to avoid being ripped off and losing thousands of Dollars, and to get them to book with you?
Some other precautions to take if you still wnat to deal via such accommodation sites. However, you can save a lot of trouble working through a known broker, or agent. Even better if yuo can visit that agent whose office is actual 'bricks and mortar!