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
The property can be advertised on a legitimate accommodation booking website/app, on social media or on it’s own website. The photos, videos and property description may have been 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 isn’t unusual when booking accommodation, so it won’t 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, which is why many scammers use them. After the payment is made, the scammer often won’t respond to communication requests or will be evasive.
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 (scammers try to move out of booking systems)
- 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
Checking if a listing is genuine
If you’re not quite sure if a property listing is genuine there’s a few things you can do to check.
If the property is listed on a legitimate website, check the reviews from other people. You can also check the reviews on 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
- Download a copy of the photo of the property on to your device
- Go to Google Image search, select the camera icon 📷 and upload the photo
- Google will return a list of results showing where the picture is being used on the internet
If something does go wrong
If you’re using an accommodation booking website or app, contact them to try and sort the issue out. If you’ve paid using your credit card or online banking, you can contact your bank for advice on whether you can apply for a charge back. You can also contact us for help and advice.
Report a scam
Help if you have been scammed or think you are about to be scammed: Netsafe can’t open investigations or track scammers, but we can offer support and advice for people who have lost money in a scam, or think they are about to. This includes letting you know the steps you can take depending on the scam you’re in and giving you advice about how to stay safe in future. You can report a scam to www.netsafe.org.nz/report.
Our help service is open from 8am – 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am – 5pm on weekends.