The strange case of Holiday Scams - how do I safely book my Portugal Holiday?

 

Portugal Holiday Scam

Recently there has been a huge increase in phony enquiries from websites such as Owners Direct but even more worryingly it seems that a significant number of owners' have had their account hacked and are taking bogus bookings.

 

This nearly happened with our own property very recently when a potential client expressed her surprise and concern that she had received two contrasting replies from her original enquiry on Owners Direct. One legitimate from my Mother but another one from a different e-mail address which was a scam and which I have transcribed below.

" Hello,

Thank you for enquiry!
I am pleased to inform you that i have availability for your dates 9 -20 July.
The total cost is £ 1100, plus deposit of £ 500 fully refundable on inspection of property after departure.
There are no additional charges.

To confirm the reservation you have 2 option:
Total prepayment refundable with a discount of 10% ( directly to the landlord of the property )
or the payment of the 50% + the refundable security deposit and the payment of the balance 10 days before the arrival.

If you would like to reserve, i will need you to provide your full name and address in order to prepare the contract booking.

I look forward to speaking with you soon.
 
Thanks"

This is not obviously a scam at first glance and someone booking a property for the very first time might find the payment demands quite reasonable. It is easy to see how someone could end up giving their personal details and paying the deposit only to find as their holiday approaches their money is long gone and no directions or instructions to find the key to the property forthcoming.

When contacted Owners Direct were very helpful and have vowed to take measures to stop such things happening again, but I just wonder if it's not too late for many people.

So how can someone avoid becoming a victim of such scams?

Obviously if you receive more than one reply from different e-mail addresses alarm bells should start to ring, as it did in the example above. The lady who was enquiring took the time to call the number given and speak at length with my Mother who was quite shocked and alarmed that something like this could happen.

I would suggest asking questions about the area and the property before booking to see how well the person responding actually knows. Ask if they can recommend a restaurant nearby or a day trip. Although this sort of information can be fairly easy to fake or even to obtain online most scammers are dealing with hundreds if not thousands of e-mails and don't usually waste time with more "difficult" or "time wasting" targets. Beware of vague or seemingly rushed answers.

Another good practice is to ask for extra photos of the property.

If booking a Property in Portugal be sure to ask for the rental licence number - these are obligatory and you should never book a property that isn't licensed.

Your best bet of course is to book with a reputable agent such as Portugal Holiday Destinations. By booking through us you can be sure of the following -

 Each and every property we feature is licensed from the government and has had thorough health and safety inspections, including annual gas boiler inspections.

We KNOW each and every property intimately. We only feature properties we manage so we are in control of the quality of cleaning, pool cleaning and gardening and can ensure that they are all at a high standard.

We are on the ground to deal with any issues, problems or queries that may arise during your stay.

We have intimate knowledge of the area and can recommend the best restaurants and where to avoid!

So why book with anyone else?

PS - Since writing the above and despite owners direct claiming to be dealing with the issue and my mother changing her account's password and details we have had another client claim that they were sent practically the same e-mail. This is clearly a serious and as yet unresolved problem.

This e-mail was as follows

"Hello,

Thank you for enquiry!
Sorry for the first message, got some dates mixed-up.
I am pleased to inform you that i have availability for your dates.
The total cost is £ 1000, plus deposit of £ 500 fully refundable on inspection of property after departure.
There are no additional charges.

To confirm the reservation you have 2 option:
Total prepayment refundable with a discount of 10% ( directly to the landlord of the property )
or the payment of the 50% + the refundable security deposit and the payment of the balance 10 days before the arrival.

If you would like to reserve, i will need you to provide your full name and address in order to prepare the contract booking.

I look forward to speaking with you soon.
 
Thanks"

The Portugal Holiday Destinations team have been offering Luxury Villas for Holiday Rental on Portugal's Silver Coast for over 10 years. They were proud to be chosen as UEFA's official Villa Rental partner for the Euro 2004 championships and also to provide accommodation for the BBC during the same tournament. Kevin, Toni and Richard have all lived in the country for over 20 years and have a wealth of experience to share with potential investors, tourists or expats. If you feel we can be of any help please leave a comment or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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