Whilst the majority of advertisers are genuine, there is sadly a growing number of ‘scam’ agencies, purportedly offering fantastic accommodation for very reasonable prices, but whom sadly disappear into thin air the moment money is transferred into their bank account.
Some scammers operate direct websites on which they advertise attractive looking properties that either don’t exist, or of which they have no involvement whatsoever. Others hack/hijack a genuine landlord’s account (e.g. with OwnersDirect) by phishing the real owner’s login details and then altering the property’s email links and phone numbers on the genuine advertisement to divert to the scammer.
In any event, renters can minimise the chances of being caught by this time of fraud.
Owners Direct and Action Fraud say following these simple tips will help you stay safe when renting a holiday home online:
- Ensure that you speak on the phone (not just by email) with the person renting the property. Any legitimate individual letting a property will provide their direct phone number on the site — if they do not, exercise caution. In the case of landlords or agencies based in Spain, try wherever possible to request a landline number (numbers beginning with ‘9’) rather than a mobile number (beginning with ‘6’).
- Never pay directly into a bank account until you are satisfied that the owner is legitimate. Paying by direct bank transfer is like paying by cash — the money can’t be traced after it is transferred on and is not refundable by your bank.
- Where possible, pay by credit card, or alternatively a debit card that offers an insurance or refund scheme.
- Check prior reviews on properties you are interested in to see what previous guests had to say about their experience.
- Ask for a rental contract — a signed rental agreement between the owner and the guest helps protect both parties. Typically, each owner or agent has their own payment and cancellation policies and house rules.