How do you spot a fake holiday listing?

  • Global
  • Tuesday, 07 Jul 2020

One way to tell whether a vacation home is too good to be true is to compare its price with the other rental properties in the area. — JENS BUETTNER/dpa

Booking holiday accommodations online, without ever seeing the place, can be full of pitfalls if you’re not careful. Nothing ruins a vacation faster than finding out the cute little holiday home you paid for doesn’t actually exist, or the landlord is a fraud.

A thorough online search can help figure out phony offers from the real ones. One warning sign is that the rental price is remarkably low, according to a consumer centre and crime office in Germany.

Take a look at the other offers in the area, they advise. That gives you a better idea of what the going price for accommodations is.

Other things worth asking yourself when looking at a vacation rental: Is the address listed? How detailed is the description of the property? In addition to saying the number of beds and rooms, the listing should also detail the furnishings and the surroundings.

If there are pictures, it’s a good idea to do an image search to see if those same photos appear in other places besides the listing.

Another warning sign is when the property owner wants the entire payment upfront, or through a wire transfer such as Western Union or Money Gram to an unknown recipient. In general, aim to pay with direct debit, which allows you to take back the money within eight weeks without giving a reason. Some credit cards work similarly.

And perhaps a bit obvious, but it’s a good idea to get in direct contact with the person renting out the property or their agent. If you can only reach an answer machine or hear the busy signal, it’s a good idea to avoid the offer; fraudsters usually avoid phone calls.

When booking through an online portal, take a look at the imprint.

Does it contain a concrete company headquarters? Fraudsters will sometimes copy the addresses of reputable providers, meaning a follow-up call or email is a good idea. Travel agencies, vacation home associations or a local tourism organisation can also help. – dpa

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