As countries across the globe ease Covid-19 restrictions for travel, consumers are preparing for a much-anticipated summer vacation. However, as the hospitality sector is off to a steady reboot, it’s not just vacationers who are excited about the prospects of relaxing at a beachside villa.
Fraudsters and scammers are in full attack mode as they prepare this year’s arsenal of fake booking websites and holiday offers to steal personal information and money from holidaymakers looking for last-minute deals and cheap property rentals.
Why identifying fake booking deals can be difficult
After months of strict social distancing and pandemic restrictions, individuals need the relaxation of a week or two at a seaside villa or lounging by the pool. Amid the excitement of an imminent vacation, many consumers overlook red flags, potentially turning a fiesta into an actual nightmare.
Online scammers have been doing their homework since the dawn of the internet, improving old ruses and sharpening their social engineering skills for maximum results.
Seasoned scammers set up fake websites that contain descriptions of idyllic vacation spots. The fraudulent websites often use the names of known companies and holiday providers, and even add legitimate details of the accommodation alongside stolen photographs from official websites. While an initial perusal of the website or platform may not initially raise suspicion for the customer, unbelievably low prices for high-demand destinations should.
As you book your summer vacation, beware of fraudulent emails, phone calls, fake websites and posts on social media advertising special deals and search engines.
Warning signs of fraudulent booking and vacation deals
Before spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on your next stay at a bungalow, townhouse or seaside villa, watch out for fraud attempts by what may appear to be your favorite booking website:
- The property requires payment via wire transfers – only use your credit card to pay for your booking to help make it easier to recover your money
- Too-good-to-be-true prices – before making a decision, check the prices of similar bookings in the area you plan to stay. If the prices are much lower than yours or you are rushed into booking immediately, you should reconsider
- Non-refundable deposit – many fake websites offer some of the lowest prices on the market and ask for a non-refundable deposit paid before your arrival. In reality, the properties do not exist, and customers are left without accommodation or money
- Duplicate deals for the same property exist on multiple websites, some of which provide a different address description or photos – before booking, do a Google search and research the details of the property, matching the images in the ads to those on the official website
- No booking confirmation, bill or contract received
- The property’s availability calendar is not updated after your booking