How to avoid holiday rental booking scams in Italy

Everything you need to know about holiday rental scams and how to avoid them.

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Avoiding holiday scams in Italy / Pixabay
14 June 2021, Redaction

It's time to go on holiday! But to avoid unpleasant surprises on arrival in seaside or mountain resorts, you should be careful when booking your holiday home in Italy. How do I avoid holiday rental scams? We have the details: in order to help you safely book your holiday home this summer, the Postal and Communications Police in Italy have prepared a guide with tips on how to avoid online scams.

Scammer profiles

The first step in recognising a possible scam when booking a holiday home online is to understand who is on the other side of the screen. There are several typical profiles of scammers to look out for:

A scammer on the run. This fake landlord has just moved abroad and cannot show you the house or welcome you in person, even though he is very keen to rent it to you. To dispel any doubts, he will explain that he's on business. The long-distance negotiation is the prelude to a request for an international transfer.

He will immediately start asking you for documents (useful to build his next fake identity), while there will also be a sudden need to conclude the deal within 24 hours. All followed by a fake Airbnb booking page, a fake Airbnb invoice and a real disappearance after receiving a large deposit.

The IT guy. The host has indeed created a holiday rental listing on an official website, but as soon as you ask for information via the app he suggests for convenience that you continue the conversation by email. In time to ask you a couple of things about your arrival, he will send you another email informing you that due to a problem with the calendar update, the property ad is not currently visible in the search (he has actually removed it), and provides you with the direct link, obviously to a cloned site that will look very similar to the untrained eye.

The companion. In this case, the host has also a listing for their property (posted too recently and with no reviews). The page convinces you and you book. The scammer is friendly, very kind and happy that you have chosen his house and will even offer you a nice discount. However, he then suggests that you cancel your booking on Airbnb or other holiday rental sites and deal privately, saying something along the lines of, "so we can both save the portal's commission". Once the transfer has been received, the friendly owner will give way to a deafening silence: Mr Nice Guy has disappeared and is already hunting for another victim.

Tips for avoiding holiday rental scams

Never pay directly by bank transfer. If you are offered a deposit, don't trust it: it is contrary to the terms of service of the majority of holiday rental websites. Pay exclusively through the site, which does not include wire transfer as a payment method. Sites such as Airbnb generally hold the full amount from your credit card and forwards it to the host only 24 hours after you check in, giving you time to get into the house and verify that everything is as advertised.

Do not communicate off-site. Be wary of people who offer to leave holiday rental sites to make a private arrangement with the promise of a discount. Moreover, you will no longer be protected by the platform's guarantees. If you stay in the app's chatroom, you can report suspicious behaviour to customer service at any time.

Beware of links shared by email or from other sites. Be wary of people who contact you via a second-hand classifieds site or a generic real estate portals. There is a risk that they will share a link to a bogus site and you will be scammed.

Read the listing carefully. A well-maintained listing for a holiday rental is usually an indication of a well-maintained host and home. On the other hand, the following should alarm you: a price that is too competitive for a week in August, particularly vague descriptions, a complete lack of reviews or a user profile that has only been created a few days ago.

Beware of 'decoy' accommodation. If once you arrive at your destination you are asked to change accommodation, obviously not up to the standard of what you booked, using as an excuse a sudden problem in the original flat which has made it temporarily uninhabitable, the best thing to do is to document everything and contact the platform immediately to obtain a full refund.

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