A number of accommodation managers in Victoria have been receiving unsolicited emails requesting that they renew their listing on the Victoria Tourism website at www.victoriatourism.com.au.
Before going any further, it is very important to note that Victoria Tourism is in no way related to the official government tourism organisation of Tourism Victoria. In fact, the company behind the confusingly named Victoria Tourism website is Accommodation Find Pty Ltd – one of several companies based in Queensland who have a history of false billing scams.
Instead of past practices of sending out what resembled bills in the mail for advertising on their websites, their tactic for the Victoria Tourism website is to send out emails requesting authorisation for continuing an apparently existing listing.
A copy of a typical email sent out by Victoria Tourism (Accommodation Find Pty Ltd) is shown below, with the personal details of the recipient removed.
The email is rather strange, being a screenshot of a letter which isn’t very clear and is not easy to read.
Notable features of the email are:
- It is issued by Victoria Tourism (not Tourism Victoria), with a green and blue “V” logo
- The company behind the website is listed as Accommodation Find Pty Ltd
- The ABN on the email is 18 086 159 195
- The contact phone number is 1800 199 863 which also relates to the companies Special Days Pty Ltd and Internet Find Pty Ltd – all based in Queensland
- The cost to advertise is specified as $95 for a 12 month listing
Many accommodation providers who receive this email never signed up for a listing on the Victoria Tourism website and may be unaware that they even had a listing on there.
The email implies an existing business relationship by stating:
“It has come to my attention that your listing on our Victoria Tourism website is due to expire…”
“Please forward through your authorisation for its continuation for the next 12 months.”
This implies that the recipient of the email has already authorised and paid for at least one 12 month advertising period and is being asked to pay $95 to renew it for another 12 months.
However, these implications are false. The Victoria Tourism website has only been running in its current form since the end of 2015. How can all these accommodation providers who are receiving this renewal email be at the end of their 12 month advertising period in March 2016?
The organisation behind the Victoria Tourism website also previously created the Vic Tourism website at www.victourism.com.au. Read about the history of the Vic Tourism website for further information.
While the Victoria Tourism email does not resemble a bill like other letters that Accommodation Find Pty Ltd has sent out in the past, all accommodation owners that receive it should not submit their authorisation to renew without careful consideration. Keep in mind that:
- The email is an unsolicited offer to continue a service that was most likely not ordered in the first place
- The email implies a past business relationship and existing advertising authorisation
- The website title of Victoria Tourism is an exact reversal of the two words which constitute Victoria’s official government tourism body of Tourism Victoria. Such word tactics are a common method used to try and confuse people into thinking they are dealing with an official organisation or popular brand.
If you have inadvertently provided authorisation to Victoria Tourism to bill you for an accommodation listing that you thought was with Tourism Victoria, you can lodge a report with the ACCC by visiting their report a scam page. Specify “false billing” as the scam type in your report.
Update for 2017
A number of accommodation providers have received unsolicited emails from the Victoria Tourism website requesting that they check their listing and review the details. An example of such an email is below.
It is unclear if there is a cost involved in updating such a listing when invited to do so via email, however when examining the advertising page, an annual cost of $99 is mentioned.
Curiously, the contact details for the Victoria Tourism website have changed since the original email that accommodation providers received last year. In particular:
- The phone number has changed from 1800 199 863 to 1300 656 789
- The postal address is now listed as “Inter Find”, located at P.O. Box 309, Oxenford, QLD, 4210
- The ABN on the original email (18 086 159 195) is not the ABN the website’s domain was registered with (37 086 159 211)
For those who may at first glance assume that Victoria Tourism is in fact Victoria’s official tourism body, then the Queensland postal address they provide should make it clear that is not the case.
Another update for 2017
The organisation behind the Victoria Tourism website has recently began sending out more emails, requesting businesses check their details on a new website titled HotelFind – www.hotelfind.com.au.
An example of one of the Hotel Find emails is below:
Again, it is unclear if there is a cost involved in claiming or updating a listing.
On its website, HotelFind claims that it is:
“a trusted brand that helps promote accommodation and tourism Australia wide”
This is quite a bold statement given that the website has only been online for a few months, and that the website owner, Amanda Stichbury, was fined and convicted by a court of law in 2014 and also in 2017 for breaching Australian Consumer Law over a series of false billing charges.
Anyone who receives an invitation from HotelFind to check their business details should confirm if there are any costs associated in updating or maintaining their listing. If costs are involved, the benefit of having a listing on the HotelFind website should be carefully considered.