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Holiday Rentals scam exposed

August 5, 2012

There is a what looks like a huge scam taking place at the moment with the website Holiday Rentals also known as Homeaway. If you have let your house out in this way, advertised with them or worse still have booked a holiday rental anywhere in the world then you could be exposed.

It works like this and happened to me, so I know. Owners of houses who want to rent them out use these websites. It cost around £200 a year and is much cheaper than employing an agent like my old pal Dancing Greg Harris from Cote d’Azur Villa Rentals. You put your phone number and email address on the advert and then wait for the responses. The problem has arisen because a criminal element has presumably hacked into the  Holiday Rentals website and redirected enquiries to themselves. They have then agreed rentals and had the payments made to themselves without the owner’s knowledge. This happened to a poor chap who thought he had rented my house yesterday. He found me through this column after the criminals had obviously not responded to him about how to get to and into the house, pictured today.

The house that is not for rent

He was on his way to the airport in Ireland when I first spoke to him. He was amazingly calm as we established that he had sent money to an account in Spain. So yesterday morning was spent trying to get some sense out of the police and to contact someone at Holiday Rentals, without success . They had a sign on their website that said because they were so busy they were not taking calls and their phone number was nowhere to be found. Directory Enquiries gave me a number but that had a pre-recorded message saying they were not taking calls. I was able to identify about 10 people who had enquired about my house (which I am not renting this year in case that loony Monsieur Hollande manages to get a rental tax of over 35% imposed, and back dated to Jan 1st this year) and to email them to warn them of this scam. One of these replied to say that he had been scammed on another house. It seems clear to me that Holiday Rentals are aware of this, indeed Dancing Greg said he had warned them about a month ago, and it also seems clear that there is an organised criminal gang behind all this, so why no apparent action from the police? Why no warnings in the press? There is one way to check if you have been duped, phone the owner if you have booked, presumably the thieves are unable to intercept phone calls, only emails, so it is a good way to check.

What concerns me is how many people will turn up at our house unexpectedly? What will happen if they have children with them and there is no house available to them? It is a nightmare.

Regular readers of this column will probably be stunned that this column has so far today turned into a public service and that there have been no jokes yet, so let’s start with the biggest joke, the UK weather. I have realised that I have not worn shorts since we arrived back in UK last weekend. This is August. This is a joke, although I admit, not a very good one.

There was a plan, currently in doubt because, yes, it is raining as I write, to walk along the River Arun to the splendid Black Rabbit pub for lunch, a perfect Sunday if only the weather abates. Instead I shall spend time contemplating the real savings I have made by opening an account with Currencies Direct and watching the Test match on TV.

Chris France

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Wayne Brown permalink
    August 6, 2012 6:45 pm

    I can understand how awful this must be for the poor holidaymakers BUT it must be said that there is absolutely no way anyone ‘hacked into the Home and Away website. This scam was almost certainly done by hacking into the owner’s own email account (probably Gmail) and there is little H & A can do about it. Basically the scammers send out fake enquiries to hundreds of owners who click on an unsolicited link which gives access to their email account. They then set up a filter in the owner’s email which sends them a copy of all the property enquiries. Once they have this info they then set about robbing the clients by accepting their booking. Someone tried to do the same to us a few months back but I spotted the fake email and traced it to an account in China. I then spent ages with the Trust department of H and A looking at this problem.

    I am pointing this out because (A) it is probably better that people understand the facts and do not click on links within random emails from unrecognised addresses and also to highlight that we are the ones at risk and not the large companies that have almost impenetrable defences against this type of thing and (B) because for many of us Home and Away is a very important source of much needed revenue and web-based articles slating the company like this can be very detrimental to us all in the long run.

    Like

    • August 7, 2012 12:09 am

      so why did HR not respond to my email? why take their number off their website? it must be a huge problem. btw, i checked for deleted emails, none

      Like

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