by Harley Nott
A vacation rental scam story
A sorry vacation rental scam story.
In February 2014 my daughter Joanna booked a ski chalet over the 2014/2015 New Year in Val d’Isere for her young family (husband + 2 children under 3) and another similar family coming over from Australia.
She found the ideal chalet on HomeAway, entered into an email dialogue with “the owner”, spoke to him on his mobile phone and eventually booked, making an on-line payment of some £3,500 to a UK bank account, details of which were provided by “the owner”.
For the following 11 months both families excitedly anticipated their skiing holiday.
A week before the 27 December start of their rental Joanna emailed “the owner” to arrange check-in details. The email bounced. She tried again with the same result. She then called the mobile phone number – it did not exist any more. Furthermore the ski chalet was no longer listed on the HomeAway site.
In desperation she called HomeAway. Yes the accommodation and the owner were genuine, it had been listed for some years but now was not.
It appears that the owner’s email account had been hacked. “The owner” Joanna thought she was dealing with was a fraudster who was intercepting the emails and impersonation the owner. Charming and plausible, but a thief.
On reporting this vacation rental scam and saying that they should have a good lead to catch the culprit though the bank account details, she was told that it’s common practice for these people to open an account with a false identity and then close it after they’ve taken the money and it’s served it’s purpose.
A happy ending? Yes reasonably….. After a lot of stress, they did manage to find alternative accommodation and had a great holiday (apart from the children catching chicken pox!) but they were still out of pocket by some £3,500.
The moral – while most ads are genuine, the sad fact remains that there are many fraudsters out there and these sites are an ideal environment for them. See what Forbes says.
If you’re looking for a vacation rental, play it safe and book with a reputable company. Coach House Rentals has been in business since 2001 and we have had several thousand happy, satisfied guests.