Holiday rental scams aren’t too common here, but the recent arrest of a young man who was advertising fake properties and making off with the deposits paid by victims shows that they can still take place. Here’s how to stay safe.
A few years ago, we popped out to a supermarket in Puerto del Carmen to discover a distressing scene. A taxi driver had delivered a large family to the luxury villa they’d booked online, only to discover the property didn’t exist. Already out of pocket to the tune of over a thousand Euros, the tired and angry tourists had no option but to find a hotel that would take them in.
There are various types of holiday rental scam. However, the most common ones we’ve experienced on the Canaries are those by con artists who list fake properties on listing sites such as Airbnb or HomeAway; and those who set up their own fake rental websites.
How to avoid holiday scams:
• IF IT’S TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS.
Lanzarote’s holiday rental market is competitive and genuine bargains aren’t easy to find. If youfind a stunning property at a surprisingly low price, proceed with caution. Another warning light is if the property’s calendar is suspiciously empty during peak season.
• CHECK REVIEWS
If a property has no previous reviews on the rental site, then again, be cautious. Fake reviews can also be posted, but they’re likely to be very recent.
• CONTACT THE OWNER/RENTER
The more details you can get from the person you’re dealing with, the better. Genuine renters may also be reluctant to give out too much information, but most will be happy to offer bona fides. Ask them about local restaurants, beaches, activities etc – genuine owners will usually be happy to help.
• LEARN TO SEARCH
As scammers don’t actually own anything, they usually steal online photos of attractive properties from estate agents or other rental agencies. Learn to use Google Image Search to see if the photo you’re tempted by is genuine. Some scammers have even posted fake photos of their “sales reps” or “agents” which also give the game away.
Once you get the address of the property, search it on Google Street View to check. It’s also worth searching any names, phone numbers, email addresses or websites you’re using – the results will give you a better idea of what you’re dealing with.
• DON’T PAY BY BANK TRANSFER
Paying by debit card or credit card offers you the best chance of claiming your money back if you get scammed.
Scammers only want your deposit, so if they try to hustle you along into transferring money (e.g by offering discounts for booking quickly), alarm bells should start ringing.
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