Con artists are parting holidaymakers from their cash by renting out fictitious villas.
An investigation by Money Mail has found the latest scam involves companies called Luxury Canarian Rentals, Canarian Villa Rentals and Canaries Villas. People who have booked accommodation through these firms are landing in the Canary Islands only to discover the properties don’t exist and they’ve been the victims of a scam.
This means they have not only lost out on the money paid to the con artists, but they also have to pay over the odds for last-minute accommodation.
According to an employee from holiday firm Thomson at least 20 families arrived in Lanzarote last weekend and discovered they had nowhere to stay as a result of the con.
Victims of the scam are asked to make a bank transfer to pay for their booking, but after they’ve parted with their money all communication stops. The criminals take the money and run.
How to spot a Villa scam
There are a number of ways you can avoid the fraudsters and book your next holiday confident that your dream villa is actual bricks and mortar and will be yours to use when you get there.
The easiest way to get peace of mind is to book via a tour operator. That way the holiday firm is responsible for the booking, your money is protected and you have a clear line of redress if there is a problem.
However, booking privately tends to be cheaper and has become incredibly popular over the past decade. Here’s five tips to help you dodge the scams.
Check how long a villa has been advertised for
Most websites will tell you – if the one you are on doesn’t consider switching to another one. The longer a property has been listed the less chance there is it is a scam. Also, take a look at reviews left by other travellers – lots of reviews mean it is likely to be genuine.
Take a look at the owner’s details
Is there a landline you could call, a genuine postal address? Google them to see if there have been any complaints made about them.
Read the terms and conditions carefully
Are you being asked for an unreasonably large deposit? If there is a security deposit be clear about when it will be returned.
Be careful with your cash
Don’t hand over any money until you are happy the advert is genuine, the villa exists and you have a legally binding agreement that the accommodation will be yours exclusively during your holiday.
Pay by credit card
Paying by credit card means you have extra protection from your credit card provider if things go wrong.
Bank transfers are a conman’s friend as they can grab your money and run. Try to avoid wire transfers via companies like Western Union too.
Paying via PayPal offers some protection but not as much as if you pay with your credit card directly.