So, you’re surfing the web, looking for accommodation for your proposed ski vacation. All of a sudden you spot an amazing luxury chalet in Verbier for a ridiculously low price. The photos of the interiors are amazing, it’s got an indoor pool, a games room, a home cinema, it’s fully catered too, you can’t contain your excitement, it’s on for €7,000 for the week.
What do you do, in your excitement to grab a bargain your brain slips out of gear, you’re not thinking and you send off a deposit, or sometimes even worse, the whole amount. It’s only later, on reflection, when you’ve come to your senses that you smell a rat. Hang on a minute, €7,000? for a peak week, in a top end chalet in Verbier? Surely that’s too good to be true, and sadly it is. By then it’s too late, you’ve been had and you won’t be the first.
The fake website scam is on the rise and now it’s infected the hugely popular Airbnb site too. This is a worry because this site has, so far, built a reputation for trustworthy transactions. It’s all too easy to get caught out if you’re not on your guard. These fake websites play on the gullible and those looking for a once in a lifetime bargain.
It’s actually happened where a party have turned up at their chalet of choice to be told, “no, sorry, we’ve had no booking from you, who are you”? If this happens to you in peak weeks, you could well be VERY lucky to secure alternative accommodation. It’s back to the airport for you and a miserable trip home with a €9,000 hangover.
So how can you protect yourself? Well first off, the “too good to be true” rule should be applied at all times. It just doesn’t happen that a chalet gets heavily discounted by the amounts advertised.
In the case of Airbnb, you may be asked to pay directly to the chalet owners, this shouldn’t happen, you should be directed through the site itself. If you’re not offered this option walk away. The fake Airbnb listings feature the same message that goes something like 'PLEASE do not book before you contact me! All the bookings made without prior contact will be canceled! To see if the dates are available e-mail me Zermatt@gpa16.eu’ - All the fake listing will contain this message. Run a mile.
Frustratingly Airbnb don’t properly police their site and take the fake listings down before the damage is done. They should be placing warnings for all to see, but I guess they feel this would prejudice potential customers and sow seeds of mistrust in the site itself. So they keep quiet and don’t give sufficient, or indeed any warning.
Alongside the fraudulent Airbnb listings there are a number of fake websites coming onto the net. Sometimes it can be hard to spot one but the general rule is that they are very sparse in terms of content and detail. They are by and large, cobbled together and just don’t look the part. We’ve spent literally tens of thousands of pounds developing our website and placed side by side with one of these false sites that should be pretty obvious. Here are a few fake sites that we know have managed to fool holiday makers into parting with their cash:
If you’re not sure get a testimonial - ask the agent if they can provide contact details from reputable sources that can testify to their legitimacy. Their bank manager would be a good start.
If you’ve been stung, there’s precious little you can do to get your money back. Airbnb will not be forthcoming in a refund and good luck contacting anyone at the fake website that stung you.
All we in the industry can do is warn people to be vigilant when making bookings and sending off deposits and full balances. Be warned, be careful and be suspicious. A reputable operator or agent will fully understand your concerns, we are concerned too, it does our industry no favours at all that unscrupulous people are out there preying on our potential clients and friends.