Accommodation scams

Posted Date: 13 July 2015
Accommodation scams

You’ve finally booked the flights for that long awaited holiday, the countdown is on and all you need now is to find accommodation. With so many online deals it’s hard to know if you’re getting a good deal or not. We have a few tips to help you get what you think you are paying for and avoid getting ripped off.

Oooh look at the pretty pictures!

Most hotels and accommodation providers work hard to protect their reputation but there are dodgy people out there, so it pays to do a little research before you commit to anything. Don't be fooled by photography, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Hotels and resorts build their selling points on drawing you in with amazing looking photos and most will have had some attention from Photoshop. Now days there are websites to help you research your desired accommodation with professional photos and reviews from customers who will post photos to help give you a sense of reality. Be aware that some reviews may be fake but if there are enough positive reviews, you’ll know it’s legitimate.

If you are looking for accommodation in lesser-known parts of the world and there are no reviews, ask the agent or owner to Skype call, it might be possible for you to see the property live. Try using Google street view to look at the property, just to make sure the address is correct and it actually exists. If possible, Google the property owner’s name, email address and accommodation address to ensure everything is legitimate. We’ve seen many warnings online about particular ‘owners’, all from just a quick Google search!

Know what you want

We all know how exciting it is to start researching your holiday accommodation and it’s easy to overlook the simplest of things when you are dreaming of your holiday. Make a list of exactly what you want from your accommodation, does it have a large pool, what are the bathrooms like, how big is the room, are there activities for the kids, does it look clean, how close is it to the attractions you want to visit or to reliable transport?

When you’re researching your holiday some sites can be a bit overwhelming with so many reviews. Many are conflicting and some people love it or some hate it. Try to take an overall view of what the percentage is of lovers and haters and what really matters to you. is a great website to see what other guests really think of the accommodation. This website only allows people who have stayed in the accommodation to review, so you know you are getting accurate information about the property.

Get what you paid for

If you booked a suite by the pool with a view make sure you get it. Carry a copy of your booking with you, as it can help to rectify any discrepancies in what you expect and what you receive. Unfortunately, what our policies don’t can’t cover is if you decide that it’s just not up to your standards and you want to move on, so please do your research and choose carefully.

Do I have to read all of that?

Once you’ve made your decision and got your quote, make sure you read the fine print before you put down a deposit. Sure there can be screeds of pages but if you haven’t read it and for some reason you need to cancel your accommodation you can bet you will be held to the fine print.

Where’s my accommodation?

Some scammers list a villa they don’t own on casual rental sites where you can rent a local house or spare room. They take your money and then disappear, never to be found again ­– or if you do manage to contact them they can make it so hard to get your money back that you eventually give up.

Make sure you speak to the owners on the phone, don’t just deal with them over emails. Ask for their landline number, it’s better than a mobile and gives you more security. Gauge how much they know about the property and the surrounding area and places to visit. Trust your instincts, if they sound vague and you’re not getting a good feeling about it, look for a trustworthy alternative. But most importantly, check the reviews and make sure that others have had a good experience. Scams that could have been reasonably anticipated or avoided, such as having your property stolen when staying in a stranger’s house, wouldn’t qualify as an unexpected event, and are therefore not covered under the TravelCare policy.

Yay you’ve arrived

Finally the day has come and you are on holiday. Hopefully your room or rental accommodation is up to scratch and is beyond your expectations. Make sure you check the property very carefully on arrival. If it’s not quite right, alert the owners or managers as soon as possible. If you are checking into a hotel or resort, check the room while the staff member is still with you. If anything is broken point it out and take photos so you don’t get charged for damage.

When you leave, make sure you check the bill properly for any added extras. If you have hired a house or apartment be sure you get your deposit back. If there are any deductions, ask for proof of receipts for the cost deducted.

The good ol’ taxi scam

You catch a taxi to the accommodation you booked but before you can even get out of the cab the scam starts. You are approached by a fake “concierge” who tells you they are fully booked. This scam will only work if you let it, so make sure you go inside and check it out for yourself to see if it’s true. If you’re by yourself, take your luggage with you or it might be stolen by the taxi driver. Otherwise you could be taken to different accommodation that could be in a less desirable part of the city or where they intend to charge you far more than you want to spend.

Other variations of this scam involve the taxi driver telling you that your hotel is sub-standard or they have never heard of it and take you to one of their friend’s hotels miles away from where you’re actually staying. They will receive a commission for taking you there and in the meantime you are completely lost, have paid a fortune and still need to get to your hotel.

To avoid such a scam, try to arrange for the hotel to pick you up at the airport. If this isn’t possible make sure you have a map and directions of where you are staying and show the driver. Have the full address and name of your hotel written down in their language too. If they say they don’t know where it is or haven’t heard of it, choose another driver who does. This scam works best on people who are vague and unsure of where they are staying.

If possible buy a SIM card when you arrive and set up your smartphone’s GPS for the destination so you can track your hotel and see if they deviate from the route. If so show them you know.


Here are some handy hints to make sure your holiday booking process is scam free and enjoyable.

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam. Listen to your instincts.
  • When booking accommodation, be sure to use well known websites or companies
  • If you’re unsure whether a property looks legitimate, do a Google search of the property or owner’s name or contact details. If there is a scam related, their details could show up
  • Make sure the person or place you are dealing with has local contact details. If you’re booking accommodation for a holiday home in Turkey, be wary if the person you’re booking with is located in the Cayman Islands!
  • Don’t wire any money through Western Union. If they’re a legitimate company, they should always take credit card as a payment option.
  • Make a list of all your accommodation names and addresses and make sure you have it in the local language as well as the English translation.
  • Read the fine print and terms and conditions of your bookings.
  • If there is damage to your accommodation when you arrive, make sure you take it up with the front desk and take photos as proof.
  • Last of all, book your travel insurance with us as soon as you book your holiday, that way we will make sure your flight and accommodation costs will be covered if the unexpected happens and you can’t travel.

And of course stay alert, stay safe and have fun!

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