6 Tips For Avoiding Online Travel Accommodation Scams

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Travel accommodations are as much a part of travel as your method of transportation. Whether your flight was botched or your accommodation was not what you expected, complications in either area can quickly ruin the whole trip.

With the expansion of travel companies, the Internet now provides a do-it-yourself approach for every day people to make their own travel plans and book their own accommodations. Competing websites have made it possible for us to surf the Internet in search of the best deals.  Everything from our preferred mode of travel and entertainment tickets, to car room rentals are up for grabs.

6 Tips For Avoiding Online Travel Accommodation Scams

Even the most well planned vacation can run into unexpected problems, including private accommodation scams. To avoid having this happen to you, keep these tips in mind when booking your stay for your next destination:

Possible Signs of a Scam

Being pressured to send money via wire transfer and not having a clear sense of where the money is going can be a BIG warning sign that something may not be right. For the scam to be successful, money must be wired directly from the traveler to the homeowner.  Reputable resorts, hotels and other accommodation locations will generally accept payment by credit card.

E-mail responses arriving in the middle of the night should also alarm warning bells (unless of course, the location is in a different time zone.) If the property is suddenly being offered for a fraction of the price that too, should send your senses into overdrive, especially if other resort properties in the area are not discounted.  These can all signify a scam of some natural.

Navigating Internet Travel Accommodation Sites

Travel sites such as Expedia and Cheaptickets allow travelers to shop online and compare before purchasing. These websites do take a little practice to master, however.  Most flash an inexpensive airfare or hotel price that is pre-tax.  When you go to book, they surprise you with the real tax-in cost once it comes time to pay.  Always be sure to read the “fine print” and investigate options before you commit.

Other sites, such as Tripadvisor, are useful to visit while you’re still in search mode. These websites offer travel planning and have extended their websites to include places where previously experienced travelers can leave advice and ratings. Reading other traveler’s reviews may save you from a bad experience or being trapped by a scam.

Private Accommodation Rental Scams

Many travelers are turning to private holiday rentals instead of the typical hotel accommodations. Private holiday homes generally sleep more people as well as offer a more convenient location, additional amenities, and can usually be rented for less money.

The popularity of private holiday rentals has skyrocketed over the last five years. Unfortunately, so has the popularity of scam artists. It has become easy for the dishonest to place international ads for luxury accommodations, offering all the amenities and desired location for unbelievable prices. “For a small deposit, the place can be yours” is a popular slogan.

Since privately owned accommodations are rapidly becoming a preferred choice for many, it is essential to have a sense of when a deal may be too good to be true. It is difficult to determine whether the advertisement is a scam or not as many scammers will provide a contract, photos of the property and even make telephone calls to instill trust. The problem is that this area of the Internet is completely unregulated, meaning it is left up to individual websites to check who advertises with them.

Red Flags for Private Rentals

Search the internet for reviews on the properties.  Ask friends who have stayed in the area for their advice.  Jump on Google Maps to view the property.  Does it match what is advertised?  Look around the neighborhood to see what businesses and transportation options are nearby.  It pays to dig a little deeper. Do not to simply trust what the private owner is sharing on their website.  After all, they are trying to get your business and may not completely paint a real picture of the property or neighborhood.

Although a vast majority of online renters and rentals are legitimate, it is still a buyer-beware market. Make certain to use legitimate agents. Perform rigorous checks on the advertisers through Internet searches and exercise the use of previous traveler reviews of the property. Ask the homeowner questions that only an actual homeowner would know.

If communication between you and the homeowner is primarily through e-mail, notice the time of day they are responding. E-mails that arrive in the middle of the night could signify a great time and region difference. Try matching it with the place you are looking to holiday in. It’s also wise to do a through Internet search of similar rentals to see if the same photos are being used to advertise other holiday homes.

Time Shares

It may go without saying as this popular scam has been in place for a long time. But traveler, do beware of time share scams.  Many time share properties have legit programs but will still subject you to high pressure sales.  This drains your vacation time and often, your desire to be on their property.

These properties lure you in with the promise of a free vacation at their resort that’s complimentary.  You’re told you simply need to attend a presentation on the resort during your stay.  They neglect to tell you that the presentation may last an entire day.  They also maintain the right to ask you to leave the property early if you do not succumb to their sales tactics.  You could quickly find yourself very frustrated or scrambling to find alternate accommodations.   Again, if it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.

Additional Resources

There are websites that act as the “middleman” that travelers can utilize. These middlemen pay the homeowner for the time the traveler will take possession of the property.

There are also non-profit sites such as Fraud.og, that encourage members to report scams and share ideas on how to protect consumers who wish to book their own private holiday accommodations.  This is a great site to continue to learn more about travel scams.

The Federal Trade Commission also has a helpful resource page at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0027-travel-scams for your reference.


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Tags: travel budget, travel plans, travel tips

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Barb Webb
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Barb Webb is a sustainable living expert nesting in Appalachian Kentucky. When she’s not chasing chickens around the farm or engaging in mock Jedi battles, she’s following the road less traveled, writing about country living and artisan culture. Travel specialties are: Agritourism and Second Season of Life (over 50) Adventures.
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