As an accommodation provider displaying your property and contact details on the internet, you may be the target of internet scams in which people attempt to defraud you by posing as legitimate travellers or travel agents.
These scams typically originate as emails from overseas sources. Some tell-tale signs that you may be dealing with a scammer include:
- They will not refer to your accommodation title in their correspondence – that is because it’s a generic email sent out to masses of people
- The email originates from a free email service like gmail.com or hotmail.com
- They request stays that are quite lengthy – often one or two weeks
- They are completely flexible with the booking dates
- There is no request for pricing details or discounts – they are happy to pay whatever price you want to charge
- They have no questions about the actual accommodation, facilities available, how to get there or attractions to see in the area
- They claim to be from the U.K. and supply a phone number that begins with the U.K. country code of 44 followed by a string of numbers starting with 70. This is actually a personal forwarding number that can redirect the call to any phone anywhere in the world (known as a “UK global redirect”)
The scammer may then employ a number of methods to defraud you of money.
Money transfer scam
You receive a booking and are asked to deduct from the supplied credit card the cost of accommodation, plus an extra amount (typically several thousand dollars) to cover other services they are booking as part of their trip. You will be given some excuse as to why they can’t pay for those additional services themselves, and you will be asked to send those extra funds to a third party via Western Union or a bank transfer.
What may be happening is that you have been given stolen credit card details and you’re being tricked into transferring funds from it to the scammer directly (i.e. the cost of their supposed additional travel arrangements). When the real credit card owner eventually disputes the transaction and the payment is reversed, you will be required to make a full refund. This full refund includes the extra amount you charged for those additional travel arrangements, which is now in the hands of the scammer and which you have to fund out of your own pocket.
To avoid these scams, only charge credit cards for just the services you are supplying, and never act as an intermediary by billing credit cards and transferring the funds to someone else.
Booking cancellation scam
You receive a booking and it is paid for using a credit card. The booking is cancelled shortly afterwards, and you are asked to refund some or all of the payment by sending the funds via a bank transfer or some other method.
What may be happening is that you have been given stolen credit card details. However, the scammer is hoping that before you realise that, you have transferred your money into their own account.
In cases like this, you should refund the credit card transaction back to the actual credit card that was initially used. Otherwise you will lose not only the money you billed to the credit card, but also the money you sent to the scammer.
When accepting credit card payments, you may wish to enter the first 6 digits of the card into the Bank Identification Number database (see https://www.bincodes.com/bin-checker/) to check which bank issued the card and in which country. If someone portrays themselves as coming from one country and supplies credit card details issued by a bank in another country, then you should be very suspicious of their intentions.