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Keep an eye out for Holiday Accommodation Scams

As the end of the year wheels around for the hard working masses, one thought is on everyone’s mind: holiday; destination: anywhere but here.

However, despite all of the excitement there can be little more upsetting than using one’s precious time away only to find that, upon arrival at your eagerly anticipated vacation venue, you have been misled by a fraudulent advertiser.

With nowhere to stay, a car full of disgruntled family members, and many kilometres between you and your now ever-more-appealing home, one is left wondering what to do next.

Legally speaking, it is best to report the situation to the nearest police station with a view towards laying a fraud charge. It is important to give as much detail as possible regarding the particulars of the company or individual whom was advertising the offer. Furthermore, one can look towards reclaiming monies already paid as deposit as well as further damages, dependant on the situation.

However, in the day of little-regulated internet sites, it can be a difficult task to track down a faceless fraudster who has listed properties that they do not own, nor have mandate from the owner, on a rental site before they have disappeared with your deposit. In these circumstances, prevention may indeed be better than cure.

Therefore, we at Burden Swart and Botha have compiled a list of 5 tips to bear in mind before booking your vacation location:

  1. Try to only use recognised and reputable Internet sites. It may seem appealing to take the path less travelled and speak ‘directly’ to a property owner, but in these instances it becomes all too easy for an individual to post all manner of content misrepresenting any property as their own. Larger and better known websites may have their own hassles, but they will also have accountability and a name to protect.
  2. ‘Fact check’ the property. This may take a degree of common sense, but look out for indicators such as how long the property has been listed as well as details about the property itself. Properties which have been listed very recently may be the makings of a scam which has been crafted overnight. It may be prudent to use Google Maps’ Street View to assess the property mentioned and determine whether the details listed match the property as it factually is on Google Maps.
  3. Mitigate your damages. Try to make sure that the booking agency keeps the money in trust until you have arrived at the location, as is the case with a number of the larger booking agencies, and that you are certain that the accommodation is in fact available. Alternatively, attempt to come to an agreement that initially only a deposit will be paid and the balance will be furnished on arrival at the accommodation.
  4. Check the reviews for the accommodation. One should be suspicious when there are only a number of glaringly outstanding reviews with vague comments about the quality of the accommodation. A savvy fraudster will be more than capable of generating a number of fake reviews to attract innocent holiday goers. Bad reviews tell their own story and may, at the very least, be a hallmark of an honest (and real) property owner or agent.
  5. Be pedantic about paperwork. At the end of the day, when one has been wronged in such situations it is immensely helpful to have all of the details, terms and conditions on paper, binding both parties thereto. You should stress the small stuff and make sure that the other party, be it an agent or an individual, puts everything to paper. If they are reluctant to do so, this could be a sign that it is not a bona fide transaction.

We wish you all a safe and relaxing holiday and festive season, but where the need arises, don’t hesitate to contact Burden, Swart & Botha Attorneys.

Burden Swart Botha Attorneys Pretoria

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