Make sure you use only trusted service providers when you’re booking a villa holiday. Unfortunately, many holidaymakers have been tricked by fraudulent websites set up by scammers. These sites offer what look like dream deals, but they are often selling holiday homes that either don’t exist, or are already booked through legitimate channels.
Villa Plus is committed to raising awareness of this issue to make sure people receive the holidays they deserve. Here’s our guide on how to book your villa holiday safely.
Check to see that the holiday company is a member of ABTA or ATOL. ATOL protects you from losing your money or being stranded abroad if on a package holiday booked with flights, and ABTA members help holidaymakers to get the most from their travel and assist when things don’t go according to plan. Villa Plus, like all ABTA / ATOL bonded companies, prominently display the ABTA logo along with their ABTA membership number, which you can check on the ABTA website. You can also check if a company has an ATOL on the CAA’s website.
Most fraudulent websites only ask for bank transfers, and once the money has been transferred there is no way of getting it back. Never pay for your holiday via bank transfer unless you are certain who you are paying and what it is for.
NO. If you pay by credit card you may have protection under section 75 of the credit card act but that is only applicable in certain circumstances where the credit card company has a direct relationship with the supplier of your holiday accommodation. Some scammers will allow you to pay by credit card but ask you to pay a 3rd party who takes credit cards, and then on your instructions that company will transfer the funds directly to an account the scammers have told you to send it to. In this instance the company you paid by credit card have done nothing wrong and your money is not protected.
A fake website may have copied the legitimate details of a company, so when you check out the address and company details, even ATOL or ABTA, it all looks correct. Then the scammers ask you to “pay the owner directly” and send a transfer to an account that is in someone’s personal name, that is nothing to do with the genuine company.
Has the website only been set up recently? Use the domain name registration records on sites such as who.is and see when the websites was registered. If it was registered only a few months ago, yet they are claiming to have been established for many years, or show customer reviews before this date, then that is a major warning sign.
BUT even if the domain name for the website was established many years ago, don’t take that alone as proof they have been in business for a long time. The crooks can wait for an old domain name not being used to naturally expire, then apply to take it over, so it seems as if they have been trading for a long time.
NO! Many scammers pay companies like Internet Search Engines (“pay per click” advertisement campaigns”) to appear on page 1 on Internet Search Engines for common searches, such as “Mallorca Villas” “Canary Villas” etc. Whilst Internet Search Engines do help to remove these adverts, it can be a lengthy process before the scammers adverts are spotted and removed.
Some fake websites have no telephone numbers, or if they do they only have mobile numbers. Some display a “normal” telephone number but these tend to be non-area specific (the UK equivalent of an 0345 number), so you cannot see where they are located. Ask for a local telephone number to speak to them on and a scanned copy of their phone bill. None of the scammers want to give out a telephone number that establishes which location they are in.
Some fake sites have no address, or the address they have given is made up. If in doubt look at the address on Google Street View, can you see any sign of that company there? Can you contact someone close by who can confirm there is an office there and they are who they claim to be?
As these are fake websites, all of the content on the site will be fake and taken from other legitimate sites. Upload an image using Google image search of the villa and company employees to see if they have been copied from genuine sites. Some scammers will also “flip” the images over so they cannot be found on a search. Use the FlipAPicture website to “flip” the images horizontally over and then search for them. If you find them elsewhere contact and question that company.
Remember, everything on the website like this will be a lie.
Their own written “customer reviews” on their website can be instantly dismissed, and be wary of new Facebook pages with comments that cannot be checked. Look for well established review sites such as TrustPilot or Revoo, but then also check the reviewers out. Have they all only done 1 review? Can you establish that the reviews are from genuine people? Search for the company name, website name and try to find them on Trip Advisor. Again, if you see any positive reviews check out the reviewers. Have they been on Trip Advisor a long time or did they only join recently? The scammers set up fake reviewers.
Do they have lots of peak season availability? Are the prices lower than you can find elsewhere? Start off by asking for something that is virtually impossible, for example a mid-week departure in peak season for a 17-night duration in a large villa. It would be highly, highly unlikely to be truly available.
Watch this video from ABTA for more information on how to avoid holiday fraud
Well, we have found around 100 fake websites that were clearly making false claims and many of these are still active. Be careful not to confuse them with genuine companies that have similar names. The scammers try to use similar names and phrases used by genuine companies. Below are just a few examples of websites that have done this, it is not a complete list.
then it usually is.