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Scamming rife in holiday house rental market

Scamming rife in holiday house rental market


By Justine Tyerman


Nightmares sometimes do come true: you turn up late at night in a state of high excitement at the address of the fabulous holiday house you booked online from afar . . . only to find it doesn’t exist. Sadly this scenario is happening all around the world with alarming frequency.

Scammers are ruthlessly targeting the holiday house market and becoming increasingly shrewd in their schemes to fleece unsuspecting people of large sums of money.

There are a number of ingenious ways people are being scammed. One of the most common is the listing of fake houses by bogus owners who collect advance payments from renters. This is easy because most holiday house websites are just online directory listings so no one checks the properties to make sure they actually exist.

Furthermore most holiday house rental companies make their money from annual fees paid by property owners – the company does not deal with any rental money and cannot provide a refund if a customer is scammed. The house owner handles the cash.

Another scam can occur where a property is under mortgagee sale to a bank but the owner continues to list the house for rent and collect deposits.

There was a well-publicised case a couple of years ago where a couple, whose house in Fiji had been seized by the bank, took multiple Christmas-New Year bookings and deposits for the property from a number of Kiwis and Australians. Four families turned up at the house at the same time to find the locks had been changed. They ended up with nowhere to stay and out of pocket by about $6000 each.

A third type that is rife at the moment is scammers creating fake websites using stolen images and details of real houses belonging to other people, taking bookings and demanding deposits or even full sums in advance.

And the latest and most sophisticated version is a phishing scam whereby phishers hack into the listings and email addresses of property owners, hijack a directory, gain instant access to a victim’s account, change addresses, divert emails to themselves and then send out demands for payment of money into their own accounts.

There may be 200,000+ houses listed in a directory so a phisher has scope to make a number of successful hits and generate substantial sums of irretrievable money.
As a renter, the only way to protect yourself is to operate through a professionally-managed company with a guaranteed 100-percent secure website where properties are verified and rental funds are held by a third party until a day after you check in.

One New Zealand-based company that specialises in luxury holiday house accommodation worldwide, is prepared to stick its neck out and guarantee they are totally scam-proof.
Amazing Accom managing director Campbell Bevan says he set up his company having been a holiday house owner and renter himself so understands the risks and security issues involved.

“Scamming is large scale, global and very clever. Consumers should be aware of the risks they face,” says Mr Bevan.

“We have strong verification processes for all our properties and owners to ensure they exist and are up to the high standards we demand, so the bogus house scenario just can’t happen with us,” he says.

“A further safeguard for the renter is that we don’t release their funds until the day after check-in so if something goes wrong, at least the renter has not lost their money.
“It gives you total peace of mind which is especially important when booking a house in another country.”

Another point of difference is that while other companies generate income by charging an annual listing fee, Amazing Accom only makes money when a house is successfully rented. It is therefore paramount for them to ensure the validity of the property details as supplied by the owner, and the security of the client’s funds.

“We need professionalism and standardisation in the rental sector,” he says.
“When dealing directly with owners, terms and conditions differ every time – you never know where you stand as a renter.

“Amazing Accom is standardised – all our properties have the same terms and conditions. The company, not the house owner, holds the funds, so the renter gets 100 percent of their money back if the house doesn't exist, is already occupied or is not as represented online.
“Scams are getting smarter and are on the rise worldwide including New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, and Australia but we are ahead of them. Our business model is unique, innovative and scam-proof.

“We are the most professional company operating in the rapidly-growing luxury holiday house market.

“If you want to de-risk and have total peace of mind - as a renter or owner - book or list through Amazing Accom.”

Ends

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