Tips for travellers tempted to book accommodations online BEWARE THE SCAMS OF MARCH

Tips for travellers tempted to book accommodations online BEWARE THE SCAMS OF MARCH

As March break approaches, the North Bay Police Service advises travellers that it’s a busy time of year for fraudsters, too. Travellers should be extra vigilant when booking condo or vacation rentals online.

The North Bay Police Service recently received complaints involving fictitious vacation property rentals in popular travel destinations that were advertised online on the free classified ad website, Kijiji. While the ads look legitimate with photos and directions to a resort or a condominium complex, they are only meant to lure the online visitor into sending a deposit to reserve a unit. And while the rental contracts presented to those who express an interest look official, all communication stops once a victim’s money is transferred to these fraudsters. In some cases, the unsuspecting victims travelled to their holiday destination only to discover that there was no reservation waiting for them, or the rental unit did not exist. Their initial deposit gone, these victims were then forced to pay for an alternate last-minute accommodation, making their vacation an unexpectedly expensive one.

How these fraudsters get away with it
The fraudsters involved in vacation rental scams adopt false identities, use temporary free email accounts and use money transfer services, making it very difficult for police to track their true identity and locate them. Because of these challenges, victims who fall for these scams rarely get their money back.

Tips from Kijiji Canada has an excellent safety section where users can also report suspected fraudulent activity. Included under this section is a list of tips titled “Avoiding Vacation Rental Scams.” (See for details.)

Protect yourself when booking travel accommodations online

  • Your safest option is to book your travel accommodations with a trusted local travel agent.
  • Never send cash or money transfers. The safest method of payment is a credit card.
  • Don’t be fooled by professional photography and/or cheap rates. Remember, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Before you book, visit GoogleMaps and zoom in to the “street view” to see if the property actually exists.
  • If you’re asked to make a deposit to a person other than the person you have been communicating with, it’s likely a scam.
  • Don’t fall victim to the high pressure tactics fraudsters will use to get your money.

Tips to keep your home safe while you’re away

  • Lock all windows, doors and garage before you leave.
  • Leave a radio playing to indicate that someone is home.
  • Leave one or two lights on, preferably operated by timers.
  • Discontinue mail and newspaper deliveries.
  • Arrange to have someone pick up any newspapers, mail or flyers that are left on your step.
  • Leave a key with someone you trust.
  • Let a trusted neighbour know you’re going to be away, for how long and where you can be contacted if necessary.
  • Arrange to have someone shovel the snow if you plan to be away for several days.