The internet has made booking travel easier and cheaper for everyone. Unfortunately, from time to time we do come across instances of people taking advantage of others with travel accomodation scams. And it’s not just those who aren’t very tech-savvy getting caught out – it’s people of all ages and backgrounds. Travel accommodation scams can appear genuine, and if you do get caught out you may be left out of pocket, or on holiday with nowhere to stay. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to help avoid these scams.

How the scam works

Most of the travel accommodation scams reported to us involve accomodation overseas, outside of New Zealand. Generally, a nice property is advertised at a good rate, and photos are provided with a contact email address. The accommodation could be advertised on a legitimate booking website or app, on social media or on it’s own website. The photos, videos and property description is taken from a real estate website, or another accommodation booking website.

The scammer will pose as the owner of the property or the property manager, and will ask for a deposit for the accommodation. This is not unusual when booking accommodation, so it may not seem out of the ordinary. The scammer will request that payment is paid to a bank account or through a money transfer system (e.g. Western Union, Moneygram etc). Money moved through money transfer systems cannot be traced. After payment is made, the scammer won’t respond to communication requests.

How to protect yourself

If you’re not quite sure if a property listing is legitimate, then there’s a few things you can do to help ensure you don’t get caught out.

If the property is listed on a legitimate website, check the reviews from other people and check the reviews on any other websites that it’s listed on. You can also do an online search for the address, or do a reverse image search to see if it’s listed elsewhere – then check if the owner details such as name and contact details are the same.

You should also ask to speak to the property owner (preferably on landline) and then check the phone number area code against the address given. When you’re speaking to the owner, ask for their address details as well – looking out for any hesitations in answering. If at any time, it seems like it’s too good a bargain, or you get any uneasy feeling about the answers they’ve given, trust your instincts. Remember, you can also contact us for advice seven days a week.

How to reverse image search 

  1. Download a copy of the photo of the property on to your device
  2. Go to Google Image search, select the camera icon 📷  and upload the photo
  3. Google will return a list of results showing where the picture is being used on the internet

Tips for avoiding travel accommodation scams

  • Use reputable websites/apps when booking accommodation online
  • Use the communication system in the website/app if it has one
  • If the booking site you’re using has a payment system, use it and don’t pay the owner directly
  • Don’t pay by a money transfer system – these payments can’t be traced
  • Be wary if a bank account given is different than the country the accommodation is in

CONTACT NETSAFE

Need help or advice? Contact us.

  • Email queries@netsafe.org.nz
  • Call us toll free on 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723)
  • Online report form at netsafe.org.nz/report

Our helpline is open from 8am – 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am – 5pm on weekends.

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