Holiday Scams and How to Avoid Them
Updated: Apr 19
Holiday scams affect people looking for holiday accommodation and those renting holiday homes. Although these Holiday scams occur throughout the year, they increase during the holiday season. It usually involves a scammer trying to rob you of your money, personal information, and at the very least, your festive mood.
Due to the popularity and ease of instant booking websites and contactless booking services, fraudsters have taken advantage of the fact that you no longer need to communicate directly with a host or establishment before booking your dream holiday accommodation.
North Coast Holiday Homes is SATSA accredited and offers Luxury accommodation at reasonable prices. We asked Marion Holland, the founder and CEO of North Coast Holiday Homes, and an Airbnb Superhost, for some advice on how to avoid holiday scams.
Holiday scamming works as follows:
Fraudsters often advertise cheap holiday accommodation and packages online, offering unbeatable rates, and limited space during high-demand periods, when there is limited accommodation available. They use eye-catching images of homes that seem to have every amenity a perfect getaway could need. Consumers will be encouraged to contact them by phone or e-mail.
A 50% deposit is then required to secure the booking for the victim. Meanwhile, you're completely unaware that many other people have also deposited the same fraudulent home, on the same dates.
Tips for finding accommodation:
The simplest way to avoid being scammed is to use reputable sites or companies when searching for accommodation.
Ask friends and family for recommendations and referrals. A good way of finding reputable holiday homes is through word of mouth.
Verify as much of the information given as possible.
If you are still left surfing the internet, looking for your perfect getaway. Keep the following in mind:
How to Avoid being scammed:
While there is no sure-fire way to avoid getting caught in a scam, there are some tips that you can use to avoid being a victim of Holiday Scams.
Avoid making last-minute reservations during peak periods when you have little or no chance of securing accommodation during these times. They target desperate, last-minute renters because they know the chances of catching them are high.
When you are caught up in the excitement of booking a holiday, it’s easy to get lured in by a bargain and last-minute deal on accommodation.
Usually, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Renting out property in a highly sought-after holiday town, like Ballito is a breeze at this time of year, and questions need to be asked if the owner/host appears desperate enough to reduce rates.
When the price of accommodation is much lower than normal in that area, it could be a scam. Bookings during peak season are usually more expensive. A listing that is much cheaper than other listings in the area should be avoided. The idea of getting a bargain or feeling like they got a good deal is appealing to everyone. Often, scammers claim to be the owner of the property and only want to cover expenses. Do your research and check other properties out.
You should always talk to the owner/host of the property you are considering renting. Being able to speak to a real, live person during your stay will give you peace of mind. It's a good way to confirm whether an accommodation is legitimate. If the advertisement specifies WhatsApp as the only contact method, be cautious. If they can't be reached or insist on messaging only, proceed with caution.
If you are not satisfied that the information is credible, ask as many questions as necessary. Since they have nothing to hide, reputable agents and owners will not hesitate to provide you with the information you require. Ask them questions that aren’t directly related to the property. Can they recommend any good restaurants or local beaches? What do they suggest for a day out in Ballito? Genuine rental owners will be happy to oblige and share their knowledge. Any time someone is reluctant to answer your questions or gives vague and incomplete information, this should raise a red flag. It is better to walk away.
Holiday rental scams involve the use of fake photos to trick travelers into parting with their hard-earned money. The images are sometimes taken from the internet or even screen-grabbed from social media. The photographs of real listings are sometimes copied and pasted together with the rest of the listing, to make it look like the real thing. You should always check the photos to ensure they match. Scammers often combine photos from different accommodation sources and put them on a single listing. An easy way to spot a scam is to see if the flooring matches and if the décor flows throughout. Look up the address on Google Maps. On both the listing and map, you should be able to see that the property is the same. Using Google to search for the property name or address will also reveal whether it looks the way it is depicted.
If you suspect that the accommodation may be a scam, use a reverse image search engine on your browser. If the photo has been posted in other parts of the world or on other listings, it is probably fraudulent.
A communication or an invoice that contains spelling mistakes, bad punctuation or wording that is fraught with errors is a good indication that something is wrong. Some things to watch out for when you book through a booking agent include strange characters in the website URL, incorrect spelling, or other small issues that could indicate a fake website, such as an email address that does not match the URL, a WhatsApp number instead of a direct mobile number or an incorrect URL.
- You can search the company's website by typing the address into the address bar
- Search the company's website online.
- Look for complaints or reviews from customers.
- In the case of an estate, contact the estate to verify details about the host and the property.
- Make sure they are active on social media (Facebook, Instagram). Their information should be easily accessible. You may want to be wary if you are unable to find anything beyond their website. Make sure the accounts haven't been loaded recently.
- Search accommodation pages to see if there are any public warnings
- Make sure the company registration number is on the invoice, and check the CIPC website for confirmation.
Do not be pressured into making a hasty booking or payment, and do not fall for an insistence that payment is urgent to secure a booking. Scammers generate urgency to get you to make payments without checking. A scammer may seem overly eager to get their hands on your money. Genuine hosts will give you some time to secure your booking.
Payments to smaller, unknown banks should be avoided. Tymebank and Capitec are commonly used. Also, scammers usually request instant payments so that they can get their money right away. You might be told that there is some problem with their account, and they'll request a direct money transfer. Direct money transfers are difficult to trace.
As a general rule, a 50% deposit is required to secure your reservation, but the risk of no-shows makes it unlikely for an owner/host to accept payment on arrival. If you have the option of paying on arrival, that is a cautionary sign.
Make sure you plan your holidays with reputable service providers to avoid criminals. Genuine agencies are affiliated with tourism associations and other travel bodies like SATSA (South African Travel Services Association). Request proof of accreditation. Owners/ hosts should provide you with a booking contract that outlines the terms and conditions of the holiday and should include company and property details.
Scams on Airbnb
The number of Airbnb scams is on the rise. Be sure to book your accommodation with a Airbnb Superhost who is experienced in hosting. You should not book directly with a host on a reputable booking platform such as Airbnb, since you will lose the site's protection. Do not pay the host outside of the secured site. A fake host might request a direct deposit for a cleaning fee or security deposit. Insist on paying through the app.
If you fall victim to such a scam, contact the local police. Your money may be nearly impossible to recover, but reporting them will prevent others from falling victim to the same scam, and if caught, all cases will be added together to ensure the criminal is charged and faces all charges brought against them.
North Coast Holiday Homes is a leading luxury holiday let company and Airbnb host specialising in the Dolphin Coast area, including Ballito, Simbithi and Zimbali. Their expertise is second to none, and you can rest assured that your luxury holiday on the Dolphin Coast will be a memory to last a lifetime.
Have you been to Ballito or are you planning a trip? We would love to hear from you! Get involved with our community, post your questions, tips and comments below.