How to avoid internet fraudsters when booking holiday accommodation

A guide to safe and happy holiday renting! recommends seven steps to avoid being caught out by hackers and fraudsters. 

Benefits of guest reviews for your holiday rental 

Yesterday I watched a report on Sky News that quoted an astounding £7 million stolen in 2013 through fake travel and event bookings in the UK. In total 4500 cases were reported to the police last year and it’s unlikely once the fraudster has struck, they will be caught and made to return defrauded money; leaving holidaymakers out of pocket and without a holiday.  

The internet has changed the way we book and organise travel and accommodation, in the majority part for the better: accessible destination research, more choice and ultimately cheaper and easier purchases. On the downside, online fraud and email phishing is becoming increasingly prevalent, but as long as both owners and guests stay vigilant, fraudsters can be avoided and holidaymakers can enjoy their well deserved break. 

On we have over 7400 holiday homes in Spain. Over the years we have had to fine tune our business, as have all the major portals, to step up security and block fraudsters.  


Eight steps to booking accommodation online without getting caught out

Online travel bookings 

Accommodation search: We recommend using a reputable holiday advertising portal to search for accommodation, rather than contacting a private advert placed on a classified website or in a newspaper. You may still end up booking from the same owner, but most portals ask holiday homeowners to supply various documents to prove they are the owners, or representing the owner, of the advertised property. At we ask to see the title deeds or council tax bill of the property, plus a utility bill and a copy of the owner’s passport.  

Property description: Check if the accommodation’s calendar is up-to-date. Some owners do leave calendar’s blank, so they can negotiate dates directly, so it’s not a definite indication there is an issue, but it’s a good idea to make further checks. Check reservation and deposit fees. Although most owners want to receive money in advance of arrival, at least 50-70%. If an advertisement offers a discount if you pay 100% in advance, this could well be a scam. So check the payment terms and conditions and make sure the owner sticks to them. 

Reviews: Once you have short-listed accommodation options, check out their reviews and do a Google search for the property. The more reviews you can find, the more secure you can be that the accommodation is real. However, we all know that you can find false reviews, so if you want to go one-step further, ask the owner if you can contact a reviewer, or past guest to chat about their accommodation. Any serious owner or property manager will be happy to supply references. 

Owner or manager contact: Don’t make any bookings until you have spoken directly with the owner or property manager. These days it’s normal to go through a sales process from start to finish by email, but an owner may be a victim of phishing. Phishing is when opportunists try to attack individuals through their email account and take over their identity (Identity Theft). We recommend not to do your transaction 100% via email. Do it the old-fashioned way. Pick up the phone. Dial. And chat to the owner. Make a list of questions you want to ask beforehand and you should come away feeling a lot more confident that this is the real deal and not a hoax.  

If you have found the property on a holiday rentals portal, you can also call the website to ask about the owner. At we are happy to validate the owner. Each property description includes the duration the property has been advertised with us. If the holiday rental has been with us for less than a year or 18 months, call us to check.  

Investigate further: Google search the owner, property address, email and contact number, for further credentials. Guests love to share their holiday experiences - good and bad - so if this accommodation or owner has been part of a previous scam, you may find comments on other holiday portals or forums. Do a Whois search if the property has its own website, check who owns the website address and where they are based.  

Booking contracts: Always ask for a booking contract and make sure you receive it before you pay any money. Check the terms and conditions and all contact details, address and payment details.   

Making a payment: OK, so you are ready to make the payment. You have done your checks and feel confident that this accommodation is above board. And 99.9% of the time it will be.  So what do you need to do to make a safe payment? Most owners ask for a bank transfer or Paypal payment to make the deposit, and then cash on arrival to pay the remaining amount. If you are booking through a seasoned owner or property management company they should also accept Paypal and credit card payments.  

If you are asked to make a bank transfer, check the IBAN and Swift Code to find out where the bank account is held. Is it held in the same country as the property, or where the owner is based? Wherever possible we recommend you pay by credit card or Paypal, as both offer protection against fraud should you find yourself caught out. Do not agree to pay by a wire transfer through companies, such as Western Union or MoneyGram, as these are almost impossible to trace.  

As mentioned before, make sure you stick to the payment details as requested on the property details page and be wary of an advert that offers a discount for upfront payments.  

The moral of this story? Do your homework and investigation, as you would with any large purchase. You wouldn’t part with cash for a car or home, without first doing checks; the same should go for your holiday.

Holiday rentals offer a flexible, relaxed holiday environment and they are the preferred accommodation for thousands of holidaymakers every year. Don’t let the fraudsters put you off. Stay smart and beat them at their own game. And don’t forget, we are here to help. If you feel unsure about an owner or rental. Call us.