Fake accommodation websites are becoming an increasing danger.
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How To Stay Safe
Payment Direct To The Owner
NEVER send money to anyone who asks you to pay them via wire transfer, Western Union, Moneygram or other such payment providers. This is especially a caution if you are booking through a third party website and not booking directly through the accommodation owner’s own website.
Websites such as booking.com, cottages.com, tripadvisor all have their own payment system and you will not have to contact the accommodation owners.
Websites such as homeaway.co.uk offer the opportunity for you to contact and exchange messages with the owner. This is where you could, potentially and unwittingly, put yourself at risk. If the owner asks you NOT to use the website’s own payment system but to pay them directly be very, very cautious. These websites have their own payment systems so that your money is protected.
If you by pass their payment system and pay the owner direct your money is not guaranteed – this is how scammers work, especially if they have hacked into the account of a legitimate owner.
If in doubt, report the problem to the website.
This is becoming an increasing problem with villas/self catering in sunshine websites. Fake sites will usually offer dozens if not hundreds of villas to choose from. The content will be stolen from other sites.
How to spot a fake villa/accommodation website
1. First, try and find out how old the website you are using is. This is easily done by copying the domain name (the bit that says www.fakewebsite.com) and pasting it into a “who is” search website, such as www.who.is. This will tell you when the site was registered and who registered it.
If the site is new, or the details don’t look right, then move on to another site.
2. Look for reviews of the site you are using. If there are none, or they are poor, find another site.
3. Look for full contact details. A legitimate website will have full contact details, including a phone number and an address. If the only contact details are a contact form or an email address, move on and find another website.
If there is a phone number, phone it. Who answers? Do they sound Spanish (if they claim to be in Spain, for example). Remember – it is easy for fraudsters to buy internet phone numbers with a country code that looks legitimate.
4. Do a Google images search to see who the “directors” are. Fake websites seems to like adding photos of their directors to make themselves look legitimate. These photos are almost always stolen.
It’s easy to do a Google image search. Right click (or tap and hold) on a picture – then copy it or save it to your device.
Then go to https://images.google.com/
Click on the camera icon in the search box and upload the image you have just saved. Within seconds Google will tell you if the same image is used elsewhere. Then you can look to see whose photo has really been used.
You can do the same with the villas on the site. Save the photos to your device and do a google image search. Does it seem as if all the content on the sites has simply been stolen from other sites? If so, move on to another site.