Facebook villa rental advertising fraud

Lately I have been hearing about some awful experiences involving frauds when booking villas via facebook.  This really upsets me in many ways.  Firstly, I believe that holidays are sacred.  People have saved hard and looked forward to a break with their families.  To have that ruined in such a horrible way is upsetting and completely unacceptable.  Secondly, it is fraud plain and simple. Lastly, it gives a bad name to people such as me who legitimately have a villa and rent it out to people.

Last night (Sunday) I received a series of texts from a lady who had stayed at my villa in Italy in April.  Firstly, I thought her phone had been hacked but the more texts I got from her the more I realised that her story was true and this had happened to her.  Let me explain.

She had booked a villa in Spain via facebook.  It was for her family which includes 3 children and her in laws.  Just as she was boarding the plane she gets a phone call saying that they can’t go to the villa as there is a fire risk problem.  The “owner” of the villa says she will sort out a hotel for her and send her the details.  A hotel is booked.  When the family arrive at the hotel there has been a problem with the credit card and they have not booked the room.  So, then this family of 7 including 3 small children are left stranded at 3am on a Sunday morning.  They finally get an apartment Sunday morning but are truly upset and stressed out.  They decided to go and find the villa but cannot find it.  They contact the “owner” who says she is upset that the hotel booking was not valid and that she will be in touch Sunday night/Monday morning.  She has reimbursed this family their monies plus expenses. To date they still have not received any further communication from her.  They have tried calling but there is no answer.  The money is not in the bank.

This family are distressed, upset, and have 3 small children in a foreign country.  They do not speak Spanish and to them this is their worst nightmare.  To me I am horrified.  I am upset for her.

To date (a week later) they have still not heard from her but have heard via posts to facebook that this woman has done this before.

You might be asking yourself why she contacted me, well she wants help.  The family don’t know what to do and because I provided them with such a good professional service (their words), she turned to me for guidance.  I am more than happy to help her.  In fact, I have just gotten off the phone from her and agreed to meet up with them when they are back in the UK to see where I can help.

So why am I writing this article, I am so mortified about this whole situation that I felt some guidance was needed when booking a villa directly from an owner especially via facebook.  These are my key points in making sure that the owner is legitimate and the villa does exist.  Whilst it does not guarantee that you won’t have a problem it goes a long way to making sure any issues are limited.

  1. If you are booking via facebook, connect with the person as a friend. If they are renting their villa to you they will gladly connect with you. You will help them market it.
  2. Look through their facebook profile. What are their posts like? Would you think that a person like this would own a villa abroad? Do they talk about their villa or the country it is in? Go with your gut instinct. It is normally right.
  3. Ask them if they have a facebook page for the villa. The more the person advertises their villa the more legitimate it will be.
  4. Do they have a personal website with the villa details? If they don’t then they probably don’t have the villa.
  5. Enquire via their personal villa website. Is it the same person that replies.  If no one replies then there probably isnt a villa.
  6. Get the address and check on google maps to see if an actual villa is there. If it is then check that all the photos in the facebook page, website and google maps are the same.
  7. Do they advertise via other listing websites such as owners direct, HomeAway, simple owners, trip advisor etc. Again, the same applies, the more they advertise it the more legitimate it will be.
  8. Think about booking via a reputable company such as owners direct. They charge a service fee but you get protection.
  9. Listing websites such as owners direct, trip advisor ask guests for reviews. Check these out. The more the better.
  10. Google the person’s name, address and see what comes up.
  11. Do they provide you with the option of paying via PayPal, and credit card? If not then don’t use them. If you pay via BACs you are generally unprotected.
  12. Buy travel insurance and make sure this type of booking is covered.
  13. Check the business name on better business bureau website to see if it is on there.

As I said the above doesn’t guarantee that everything will be perfect but it goes some way to protecting you.  If you want more information then please get in touch.  I can be contacted on 07983406017 or louisa@rentalholidaysitaly.co.uk.

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