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Scam website stole my villa
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Joined: 30 May 2009
Posts: 5986
Location: The Westmorland Dales, Cumbria

PostPosted: Sun Jun 04, 2017 12:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

AndrewH wrote:

There is one thing which singles out these scam artists from the genuine OTA's and that is they never show a contact telephone number for themselves.

As a parallel to the main topic, the contact details are now something I always look for on a trading website - along with such things as a Privacy Statement and T&Cs.
I came very close recently to paying money to a bogus website when I was searching for something that had recently been discontinued, and found it on a legitimate looking website at a decent price (presumably because it was discontinued....) and all looked good - normal “shopping cart” and checkout process etc. On the point of pressing the “Buy" button, I thought I’d check where they were based. They had just an email address for contact details, nothing else - and definitely no registered office postal address. Back off and check further - up they came on a google search for scams.
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Joined: 09 Dec 2014
Posts: 345
Location: Ivybridge, Devon, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jun 05, 2017 9:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

greenbarn wrote:
the contact details are now something I always look for on a trading website

This is a truly shocking story, but unfortunately a rising trend.

My view is that there is no silver bullet to stopping these scams, but by innovating technology-based marcoms tactics, there will come a point where the scammers won’t go to the trouble unless there is big/easy money involved.

For example, the scam sites tend not to publish genuine social media links(ie they embed the relevant social media icons into their scamsites but link to the generic rather than ) because they mostly cannot be bothered to maintain social media profiles, and if they do they may inadvertently give away information about themselves as they strive to appear genuine.

They certainly won’t publish contact details on behalf of the owners, for obvious reasons.

And as mentioned previously, they tend not to publish a telephone number - though for a small business, there can be other reasons for not doing so.

They use website templates(the similarities between different sites begin to become obvious – I do feel for the genuine businesses who happen to be using the same templates), and they scrape data from other sources.

How would I counter them? As I say, no silver bullet, but by degrees.

My fledgling HolidayViews Direct venture requires an Owner Statement before an owner account can be opened. Once the account is approved, the Owner Statement is in the public domain, visible to the prospective booker and is the first step in building a credible listing as a genuine owner.

The service also allows you, the owner, to publish links to your social media feeds in an effort to help persuade travellers that you exist and are a genuine owner. It enables prospective bookers to visit those links and also contact the owner directly to ask questions prior to making any payments.

I also publish genuine social media links for the HolidayViews Direct site itself, so visitors(owners and travellers) can see my business tweets, read my blog, visit my FB profile etc. (Don’t get too excited yet folks, but I am beginning to populate them).

There is also the question of video. Video can be made less easy to steal from a website, though not impossible. I have created a video of me talking about my holiday cottage, and am publishing it on HolidayViews Direct as an example of how, perhaps, video can be used to further persuade travellers that the owner exists, is investing time in creatively marketing the accommodation, and welcomes direct contact. It also shows my face, talking about the property. Would the majority of scammers go this far?

Of course, I recognise that all of these tactics can be faked by the determined scammer, but I question how many are sufficiently determined to spend the time and take the risks to do so.

And the beauty of not using a website template is that I can continue, on behalf of the owners who advertise their properties on HolidayViews Direct, to create new hoops for the scammers to have to jump through if they wish to create fake websites which meet the criteria I am setting for HolidayViews Direct.

The challenges are not all on the supply side though. Travellers will have to educate themselves on the emerging risks of blind booking via online agents, become more wary of professional online scams, and learn how to smell a rat!

Meantime, I am determined to create a trusted environment which will allow travellers to browse accommodation options and truly book direct with those owners who want to take bookings directly, in the knowledge that the overwhelming weight of evidence suggests the property exists and the owner is completely genuine.
Twitter/Facebook/Instagram: @esmescottage

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