Sadly, the holiday scam business seems to be casting a wider net each year with more and more unsuspecting holiday makers being reeled in and taken advantage of by unscrupulous con-people.
More often than not, the scammer doesn’t own and has never owned a holiday home but has spotted an opportunity to rob people of their hard-earned cash. They do this by falsifying a caravan; stealing images from the internet to create a fictious rental with ‘cheap’ rates, particularly during peak season to lure people in to paying a deposit by bank transfer. Often, they will advertise on free selling sites and Facebook groups because it costs them nothing to put up a listing and there is next to no traceability, or if you’re asking for a holiday, will contact you via private message only or simply comment ‘PM you’ on your post.
With this in mind, it is vitally important that you exercise due diligence and undertake thorough research before thinking about paying over money by bank transfer to an unknown person. There is no comeback if you pay by bank transfer. All you can do is report the person, who is probably using a fake profile, to Action Fraud. You are then left out of pocket, without a holiday and a heap of frustration and disappointment.
Always ask lots of questions because genuine owners or their letting agents really don’t mind as they want the scammers stopped too. Scammers not only damage the reputations of bone-fide owners and agents, they taint what should be a great experience for holiday makers. There is a big difference between an affordable holiday booked privately with an owner (rather than the park operator) and a cheap, too-good-to-be-true holiday price from a scammer – be vigilant.
Below, we have put together some tips to help you to recognise and avoid potential scams and scamming activity. If you are ever in any doubt, do not make any payments.
15 Top Tips to Avoid Holiday Scammers
Tip 1: Price
Always question the price if it seems to good to be true, a bargain isn’t always a bargain. If most other holidays are selling for much more, be very cautious as to why this particular holiday is significantly less. Cheap prices out of sync with other same grade caravans are a red flag. Why is their price not in line with other owners’ prices?
Tip 2: Availability
Ask to see their availability calendar and ask questions about prices at different times of year. Do they have a pricing structure in line with others? If they seem to have a lot of peak dates free (unless it’s early on in the season) ask why. Many scammers sell the same dates over and over again to repeatedly reap the deposit money.
Tip 3: Check Out Profiles
Most holiday home owners should at the very least, have a Facebook page (not a group) that shows their posting activity and will demonstrate interactions with their guests and responses to any questions asked. The posts should be varied and indicate that they are indeed familiar with the site. Are there any pictures of their family on the park or in the caravan? Check to see if they have any other social media pages, do they all fit?
Tip 4: Check Reviews
If someone owns a holiday home they like to share positive reviews and encourage former guests to leave feedback. Genuine holiday home owners love to see families having a great time their holiday homes, it makes sharing them feel rewarding. Always take the time to look for testimonials in the review sections of booking systems, on different websites and on social media pages. If you can’t see any, ask yourself why!
Tip 5: Ask Questions
Never be afraid to ask questions, the more questions you ask, the better. It isn’t at all rude and genuine owners don’t mind, we hate the scammers too! It’s really important that you feel the owner has good overall knowledge of their park and the ins and outs of their holiday home so ask, ask, ask!
Tip 6: Look at the Pictures
Because scammers can easily screenshot images online, really scrutinise the pictures. Do the internal images look like the same caravan in terms of layout and colour scheme and does it look like the internal pictures match the external ones. Ask your owner what the make and model is and Goggle it.
Tip 7: Verified Owner List
There is an established Facebook group that’s run by a dedicated team who work tirelessly to help root out scammers and promote genuine owners. In doing so, they have compiled a comprehensive list of verified owners who have to prove their ownership status on an annual basis. There’s no point putting a call in to the holiday park as many scammers now clone genuine owners’ details and the park can’t release information under the new GDPR legislation.
Tip 8: How do You Pay?
Do not part with any money at all until you’re 100% satisfied that the person you are renting from is genuine and you’ve checked and double checked. Many scammers ask for money by bank transfer as they know there is very little chance of legally recovering your money as you have willingly sent it to their bank account. You could always check to see if the name is known here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/HolidayWatchdog/
Tip 9: Give a Shout Out
Put a post up on an rental group asking if the person you plan to hire from is known to them. Many park owners know of each other and some of the site admins are incredibly knowledgeable and know so many names because of the close monitoring they perform on their groups to help try to stop scammers. Never be afraid to ask, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Tip 10: Where is the Advert?
Many scammers aim to maximise their return with little outlay. Other than giving up some of their spare time listing adverts and responding to enquiries, it costs them nothing to scam innocent people. They tend to place adverts on the well-known selling and auction sites, and target caravan hire and regional Facebook groups. Have you seen the same caravan on any of the paid for listings?
Tip 11: Never Ask for ‘Cheap’
Personally, I cringe when I see someone ask for a cheap holiday, it’s asking for trouble. Be very careful what you ask for if you’re placing an advert for hire on a caravan group or local selling group, scammers are known to prey on people looking for cheap deals. Avoid the word ‘cheap’ and be mindful of anyone that contacts you directly via message without commenting on your post with details of their caravan, or simply writes, “PM you”. Why the lack of transparency?
Tip 12: Name Search Them
Name search them and see what comments they’ve made elsewhere and what their activity is like. See what groups they’re in on Facebook and for what posts they’ve made and commented on by entering their profile name in the search box. Look on verified owners’ lists such as FBS Verified Owners’ Group – although do not rely on anyone using a ‘verified’ logo or badge as no such scheme exists.
Tip 13: Terms and Conditions
Holiday home owners that let out should have some terms and conditions in place to safeguard both parties. Ask to see the terms and conditions and scruitinise them. Compare them to others’ T&Cs to see if they seem to have all aspects and eventualities covered. Terms and conditions can be costly to create if done professionally. Do they have a professional feel to them or have they been hashed together in a hurry?
Tip 14: Booking Process
If they don’t have a bone-fide website with a formal booking system, ask for booking paperwork to fill out before you pay anything. How genuine does the form look? Is it professional, well laid out and contain details you’d expect it to? Why not ask for an address to post the booking forms back to, scammers will be reluctant to release those details. Although they could give a false address, so ask for proof of receipt before you send payment.
Tip 15: NACO Registration
NACO is the National Association of Caravan Owners
Caravan Holiday Hopton have a fantastic selection of 2 and 3 bedroom static caravans and retreats available to hire at the 5 star, award-winning Haven Hopton Holiday Village, near Great Yarmouth in Norfolk. With caravans located in serene spots across the holiday park, near the golden sandy beach and next to the golf course, you can enjoy a relaxing holiday in this beautifully landscaped 103 acre garden village by the sea and enjoy its top-class facilities.