Don’t Get Scammed By a Vacation Rental Pre-Pay

Don’t be scammed!  

It’s always very scary to pre-pay for something. A major hotel offering a pre-pay deal, or your airlines tickets are of course, usually safe. 

But when booking through a service for a vacation rental, you  should always be very wary when they say to you, “I will give you  a special price if  you prepay now.”

But even if you think you do your homework, it can still happen. 

 Read this scam  that happened to a reader…..

I am a PR professional and I have been scammed!

So, I am taking a little time to do some PR to help warn others about this
terrible scam that is ruining people’s vacations!

While it has had some press coverage in the past, nothing
has been done to stop it. And travel sites like VRBO/Homeaway and Flipkey have
denied responsibility and done little more than add a page under their FAQs to
tell you how to avoid being a victim. The advice they provide is not foolproof
(I actually did almost everything they tell you to do) – and the real
problem
is that their online contact form is subject to pfishing. 

At minimum a warning should be posted on their
contact form so that potential renters like me will take extra care when
booking our reservations. And banks need to do more to stop known scammers from
using their institutions to handle these transactions that are defrauding
people.

Here’s what happened to me:

I
made several inquiries on Paris rentals via the online form on VRBO. This was
the only site I used and no one (including my family) knew the details (dates)
of our trip. We are flying into London, so it could not be determined based on
our plane tickets.

Several responses
were sent to me including an e-mail noting that the sender had a property
available for the dates I had listed with a link to a Flipkey rental listing.
He said he would give me a special price if I prepaid now and signed the e-mail
by the legitimate owner (Pascal Zytomirski) of the property. When I
Googled the property and the owner’s name (one of the fraud prevention steps
recommended), I saw he owned the property and it had great reviews so I thought
I did my homework.

Whoever the scammer is (Grand Travel Rentals AC) sent me
several e-mails and even asked when we would be arriving so he could send a
driver to pick us up at the train station. It all seemed very legitimate
including a professional contract with Pascal’s name. I signed the contract and
wired funds to his bank account (one of the recommended forms of payment per
VRBO). I did not call the property owner – since we are dealing with time
differences I thought e-mail made sense – if I had and was observant, I would
have seen that the phone number on the listing did not match the one of the
contract (though you can have more than one phone number – I know I do).

 However, had I called the one on the contract I woud have reached the scammer
which would not have helped. On Saturday (April 6), I happened to looked at the
link to the property that was sent to me (doing some travel planning) and saw a
posted notice that the property had been the target of a scammer. I contacted
the owner via the Flipkey link and he confirmed I had been scammed. I have
contracts with the owner’s name (Pascal Zytomirski), but apparently Grand
Travel Rentals and the account that we sent the money to are not his. Pascal
informed me that at least two (so far) renters have come forward that were
scammed with the exact same contract/sent money to the same bank.

Apparently,
this has been going on since 2010. Almost all cases involve accounts at
Barclays. There have been slight variations in the scam, but most have followed
the exact same pattern as mine. There is Facebook Group that has been formed to
assemble the victims to take action.

It
is
being headed up by the following individuals who can give you more
background on the scam. They are property owners in Bali who have seen
many of
their potential renters get scammed and decided to do something about
it. They believe this is a multi-million dollar operation. They
have given me permission to share their contact information with you:

Elizabeth Love +6285936128899;
balipoodledoodle@yahoo.com or
Nick Hyam +6285857220155
; nick_hyam@yahoo.com

You
can also find more dialog and heartbreaking stories if you search on HomeAway’s
community forum under “scam”. Here is a link to one of the many discussionstrings.

Please
encourage your followers to file a report if they have been scammed. I sent one
to ActionFraud in the UK and also IC3 in the US – both handle Internet Fraud. I
have also submitted complaints to VRBO and Barclays. VRBO has denied any
responsibility and Barclays is still reviewing it (but based on what other have
experienced, I have no hope they will do anything). My bank put a tracer on the
wire transfer and Barclays said the money was transferred immediately out of
the account as soon as it was sent. So, there is no recourse for me to recover
funds. Also, my bank made me close my account and open a new one. Apparently a
scammer can reverse engineer a wire transfer and attempt to auto debit funds
from your account. Scary! No one seems to know this. In addition, victims should
join the Facebook Group.

With the
increasing popularity of sites like VRBO, it has become a real hunting grounds
for scammers. If you can help stop just one person from being scammed…wouldn’t
that be rewarding? I know it would give my loss some meaning.

Thank
you for your consideration,
CG Communications
www.cgcommunications.com


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