How to Protect your Money from Vacation Home Scams

Booking vacation rental accommodation online is a popular way of arranging vacations. Holidaymakers can often tie in a suitable property with cheap flights and find the perfect vacation home to suit them. There are millions of vacation properties booked across Europe in this way, and many second home owners rent out their properties successfully. They often advertise on legitimate letting sites which don’t take the booking themselves but refer enquiries directly to the owners or their agents.

Unfortunately fraudsters have taken advantage of this system by scamming holidaymakers. They advertise fake properties, often simply lifting the details of a property they do not own but which is a genuine rental owned by someone else. When enquiries are referred to them they sound genuine and a booking is made. Fraudsters then ask for the payment to be made by international money transfer. Once the payment is made the money is lost. The European Consumer Center has seen a rising number of complaints as people have lost thousands to fraudsters in this way. Their money is gone and there is no vacation home.

In such instances the genuine vacation owner knows nothing about it and the companies which list the advertisements have no responsibility as they were not involved with the booking. In the UK those who book in this way are not protected by ATOL or ABTA.

Of course the majority of vacation homes advertised this way are genuine and not scams. Unless it is a last minute booking when the full sum may be requested the usual way of dealing with payment is to send a deposit of typically 25% to secure the property with the balance to be paid by cheque or on arrival. Most individual owners do not have the facility to accept credit card payments but will take payments via Pay Pal. If you book through a genuine booking agent you should be able to pay by credit card.

To protect your booking money payments via Pay Pal are protected for forty five days after payment. The ideal way to pay is to pay the deposit via Pay Pal or credit card and arrange to pay the balance in cash on your arrival at the vacation home. Many second home owners abroad will employ the services of a local person to meet vacationers and collect payment on arrival.

If you find a vacation property online the listing agent will refer you directly to the owner to make the booking. To protect yourself further ask the owner for contact details such as landline phone numbers and talk to them directly, asking questions about the property and location. You can also ask for a contact number of others who have rented the property in the past, which should allay any worries that the property is not a scam.

The most important point to bear in mind is your money is not protected if you make an international money transfer so arrange other methods of payment to protect your booking. With a little caution there is no reason to suppose that your vacation home will not be other than genuine.