Watch Out for Holiday Accommodation Scams!
The following article was written by Henno Kruger and published on Junk Mail (November 8 2011):
Before the 2012 / 2013 festive season we posted a warning about scams. Unfortunately one of our users was caught by a scammer in one of those holiday accommodation scams a while ago. An article about this was published in the Beeld recently.
The Junk Mail user (Mr Louw) responded to a holiday accommodation advert on our website, which read as follows:
“Warner beach luxury self catering 3 bedroom two bathrooms pool , lock up garage , secure , remote access, neat and tidy pics available , near beach and shops , sea view call wilfred at 0760831678 or …”
The “advertiser” who called himself Wilfred requested that Mr Louw pay a deposit of R2800 to confirm his booking for the accommodation, which he did. The scammer came across as very nice and continued to phone him daily to ask him when he was leaving for holiday. He asked Mr. Louw to give him a call when he was past Pietermaritzburg on the way to the coast so he could meet him in person at the unit in Warner Beach.
Mr Louw left Pretoria at 3 AM on the day he was supposed to book into the accommodation at Warner Beach. When he reached Pietermaritzburg he tried phoning Wilfred, but he did not answer his phone. They finally arrived at Warner Beach at the unit, but was greeted by two other groups of people who also responded to the advert. There was no sign of Wilfred. The whole ordeal cost Mr Louw and his family R5000. A case has been opened with the Brooklyn SAPS in Pretoria regarding this. Besides using the 076 0831678 telephone number in the advert Wilfred also used the following e-mail address: Fredleon@nokiamail.com.
Don’t get caught by Holiday Accommodation Scams! Remember this when you’re responding to a holiday accommodation advert:
- Ask the advertiser for at least 2 references. If the advertiser claims to be working for a reputable timeshare agent (like RCI, Holiday Club) double check if he / she is indeed affiliated with them / employed by them and if the e-mail correspondence is actually from them.
- Be on the lookout for flamboyant language in the email that may contain promises that seem unrealistic.
- Verify the address of the accommodation independently. Check if the address actually exists. An easy way to do this is to use Google Maps.
- Be vigilant if you deal with an advertiser that uses a web based e-mail account. (like “@hotmail.com”, “@live.com”, “@gmail.com”, “@yahoo.com”, “@yahoo.co.uk”). Accounts like these can be created in under 5 minutes online.
- Be very cautious when you are requested to make an urgent payment to secure bookings, this should be a red flag.
- Verify the information before parting with your hard earned cash. Verify the existence of the accommodation and if the unit is actually owned by this person and is available for the time period before booking it.