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Direct enquiries: Handling the fear factor.
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russellt



Joined: 09 Dec 2014
Posts: 345
Location: Ivybridge, Devon, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2016 10:52 am    Post subject: Direct enquiries: Handling the fear factor. Reply with quote

The big booking sites rely, at least to some extent, upon all the scare stories about scam owners and non-existent properties to draw the market towards the security of their online services.

Yet, some LMHers suggest that they are seeing an increase in direct enquiries again.

So, what do you do to handle a direct enquiry and, in particular, how do you allay any fears which the enquirer may have about your motives and the existence of your property?

    I respond to the initial email/website contact quickly, and send a personal reply rather than a template response or auto-reply, referring to any questions they may have asked.

    I ensure my signature contact details are in the footer.

    My email address uses my domain name(not xxx@gmail.com, etc).

    My WHOIS details are not hidden.

    We have a website(of sorts).

    In my initial response, I have also started referring to the benefits of booking direct(ask questions, ongoing dialogue, see guest reviews, save money on booking fees, etc), and guests seem to respond well to this.


What other tools, techniques or tactics do you use to help allay those direct booking fears?
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Bunny



Joined: 16 Oct 2013
Posts: 3387
Location: South of England

PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2016 11:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am very open and transparent about the property address from the outset. So, potential guests can google earth the address and see that it exists and corresponds with the pictures. They can also search the electoral role and see that I genuinely live here on site. They can also google my name to see that I appear all over the place. I know it is less safe for off site owners to do this, but I'm always here so don't worry about it too much and the benefits of allaying guest fears outweigh the negatives IMO.
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Ecosse



Joined: 29 May 2014
Posts: 722
Location: Saint Gervais les Bains, France

PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2016 11:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bunny wrote:
I am very open and transparent about the property address from the outset. So, potential guests can google earth the address and see that it exists and corresponds with the pictures. They can also search the electoral role and see that I genuinely live here on site. They can also google my name to see that I appear all over the place. I know it is less safe for off site owners to do this, but I'm always here so don't worry about it too much and the benefits of allaying guest fears outweigh the negatives IMO.


Ditto - potential guests are welcome to have a look round any time... though not practical for those far away, we've had several take us up on the offer. We've also encouraged sceptics to look us up on the tourist office site and also on booking.com, seeing as you cannot list with them if you don't exist.

It does, however, amaze me that there are still people around who don't check at all - a Belgian group (i.e not close enough to visit) have just booked a winter peak week with not so much as a phone call. We received a very brief email saying, 'I'm interested in the 25rh February week but your Mediavacances listing gives 2 prices, full price and a special half price offer, what is it?' My fault, as I wasn't in winter booking mode and had accidentally left the last minute deal price up from last winter but personally, a half price deal being offered in July for the following winter (albeit with slightly different dates... she hadn't noticed) would be setting my Scam-o-meter on alert!
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Cymraes



Joined: 07 Jul 2015
Posts: 343
Location: North Wales

PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2016 12:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I tell them they we are VisitWales listed and are regularly visited and graded by an official body.
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Casscat



Joined: 05 Jul 2014
Posts: 2662
Location: Andalucía

PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2016 12:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I engage in friendly, personal dialogue and invite them to telephone me. Once I am actually happy that THEY are not a scammer I tell them who I work for and suggest that they may care to contact me at the office rather than via my mobile. I also suggest that they look me up on LinkedIn. I hope this is all done in a non-alarmist way! I emphasise that I appreciate the need to be absolutely clear who you are dealing with. I have to say I usually end up with a really good rapport with my guests and I have only ever had one person who would not pay via bank transfer.
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Martha



Joined: 16 Apr 2006
Posts: 2202
Location: Chamonix

PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2016 1:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have a page on the site for this, could do with an update actually. People definitely look at it, it's quite high in the stats.

http://www.chaletlaforet.com/booking/booking-with-confidence
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russellt



Joined: 09 Dec 2014
Posts: 345
Location: Ivybridge, Devon, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2016 2:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Martha wrote:
I have a page on the site for this


+1

Good idea.
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newtimber



Joined: 24 Nov 2012
Posts: 1592
Location: Brighton

PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2016 3:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Unfortunately, compromised email accounts are the main way that people are scammed. Your details can be registered with the tourist office, you can have a good website with a domain registered for over a year, but if someone gets access to the email account and tells guests to pay into their bank account instead of yours, all this is in vain.

Ultimately, it's using a secure online booking system with payment by credit card that is going to provide the guest with the best security. The guest is not going to lose any money and it's not going to be worth the effort of a fraudster hacking an owner's site or the 3rd party booking site - there are easier ways of getting card details than this.
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russellt



Joined: 09 Dec 2014
Posts: 345
Location: Ivybridge, Devon, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2016 3:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

newtimber wrote:
if someone gets access to the email account and tells guests to pay into their bank account instead of yours, all this is in vain.


I can understand that one, but if the owner tells the guest upfront what the bank details are for payment, and that these will never change, then any interception of email by a scammer attempting to persuade the guest to play elsewhere should ring an alarm bell. (I hope).

Yes, credit cards go a long way to solving the problem, but the vast majority of my bookings are online payment(and still some cheques!).

I was also coming at this topic from the perspective of the non-existent property which exists only on a fraudulent website, or where some innocent victim's address has been hi-jacked. How prevalent do we think these scams are? Mostly urban myths, or very real?

What other techniques can we use to persuade cautious direct enquirers that we are genuine? Until we can answer this question, many potential direct enquirers will be seduced by the big sites' booking guarantee propaganda.
Confused
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PW in Polemi



Joined: 21 Oct 2012
Posts: 1756
Location: A village in Paphos, Cyprus

PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2016 4:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

russellt wrote:
... but if the owner tells the guest upfront what the bank details are for payment, and that these will never change...

You simply cannot promise that. We had an RBS account - in fact, it was opened when it was still Williams & Glyns so that tells you how long we had held that account. We were happily telling guests to transfer their deposits and subsequent balance payments into that RBS account - until RBS turned round and told us we had several months in which to move to Nat West because RBS was concentrating on business accounts, and ours was a personal account. So, objecting to being told where we had to bank, we opened an account with the Co-op Bank and our guests were happily paying into that, some of them having to be notified of the new account details for their balance payments. Until head office decided to close that branch. We ended up with Nat West in the end - and even though it's a subsidiary of RBS and we had been with RBS for decades, we still had to go through the whole rigmarole of opening an account, compliance, etc etc etc.
So you just never know with banks at the moment.
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russellt



Joined: 09 Dec 2014
Posts: 345
Location: Ivybridge, Devon, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2016 4:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

PW in Polemi wrote:

You simply cannot promise that.


Fair point.
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Martha



Joined: 16 Apr 2006
Posts: 2202
Location: Chamonix

PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2016 4:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

newtimber wrote:
Unfortunately, compromised email accounts are the main way that people are scammed. Your details can be registered with the tourist office, you can have a good website with a domain registered for over a year, but if someone gets access to the email account and tells guests to pay into their bank account instead of yours, all this is in vain.

...

Ultimately, it's using a secure online booking system with payment by credit card that is going to provide the guest with the best security. The guest is not going to lose any money and it's not going to be worth the effort of a fraudster hacking an owner's site or the 3rd party booking site - there are easier ways of getting card details than this.



There are easier ways of getting card details, I'm sure, but it certainly does happen in this way. Cloned booking systems are rife. I've seen a complete and very accurate airbnb clone a year or so ago. And cloned properties on established booking systems are also very common. The main problem round here is duplicated properties, rather than compromised email accounts.

Compromised email is a problem too of course. But not all CC systems are secure either.

It's very difficult to know what to do, to best help a guest to be wary of scams without putting them off completely, and this is a useful conversation for thinking about these issues Smile

From the point of view of our market - if they've booked a holiday for ten people at New Year (which is the typical scam round here as it's massively oversubscribed) ...whilst it's true that they will get their money back from a CC company, they are likely to have to pay very seriously for accommodation, even if any can be found at all. It would completely ruin a holiday. And it happens, from time to time.

So I prefer to emphasize contact and establishing that I am an actual person, rather than getting too much into payment methods and security. I encourage people to contact me during the booking process, for a chat over some details.

I do accept cards via PayPal but I add a charge, and after a talk, many opt to waive this. Also, as we are a single large place, I do worry a bit about chargebacks. I'm not sure what the latest is on protection for a holiday home paid for via PayPal anyway, there were some questions over it the last time I checked.

It remains a really difficult area. Airbnb doesn't really work for us at our size, but I think they have this part very well thought out.
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Martha



Joined: 16 Apr 2006
Posts: 2202
Location: Chamonix

PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2016 5:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I was also coming at this topic from the perspective of the non-existent property which exists only on a fraudulent website, or where some innocent victim's address has been hi-jacked. How prevalent do we think these scams are? Mostly urban myths, or very real?


This has happened to me several times, fortunately without any guests being scammed as far as I know. I found them in time and got it removed.

The listing sites involved had no interest in helping and even refused to contact people who might have been scammed, claiming they couldn't track them. This was utter rubbish as I had enquired about the fake chalet from a throwaway address, which later received targeted marketing emails from them. This was Travel Library which I believe is now defunct. There were others though.

Even though I had bank account details of the scammer, no-one is interested. It's a very easy scam to do as it would involve so much international co-operation to catch.

Several properties I know of in the valley have had this problem, with people actually turning up. In one instance they were even returning guests!

Here are a couple of threads about it
http://www.laymyhat.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=15507

http://www.laymyhat.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=10994
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kevsboredagain



Joined: 20 Jan 2007
Posts: 3209
Location: France

PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2016 5:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A website can be cloned in minutes using free tools and setup equally quickly on another domain. A listing site that looks just like AirBnb can be bought from India for a few $100.

To prove you're not a scammer you have to offer evidence which a scammer almost never has.

I put this in many of my adverts and first response to enquiries. Whether it has any effect or not, I've no idea but I believe in educating the enquirer on how to prove something is not a scam rather than just telling them it's real.

HOW DO I KNOW THIS IS NOT A SCAM? Sadly, scammers are now targeting listing sites by gaining access to the email accounts or adverts of owners and therefore intercepting messages and payments. The listing sites do little or nothing to combat the problem. How can you avoid being a victim? Most owners will have a varied web presence and can be found elsewhere with a little homework. A scammer will have none. For example, you can find me on Linkedin, Xing, Facebook, my own website, the LHM rental forum and other adverts. You’ll even find me listed in the phonebook. Ask for more proof of ownership, eg. photos of work done on the property or photos of the guestbook testimonials. Such requests will scare off most scammers. They want easy targets so don’t let them target YOU!
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Martha



Joined: 16 Apr 2006
Posts: 2202
Location: Chamonix

PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2016 6:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's very well put. I have some of those but not all listed on my page. I used to have LMH and took it off for some reason, I wonder why? I think I'll put it back. Photos of work done is a really good idea - something that only an owner would have. I might adapt some of these if you don't mind?
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