Rental scams to watch for during holiday planning season

Chantal Swainston

It was a cold Tuesday in February when Eva booked her trip to Spain. She thought she’d found the perfect AirBnB to spend her summer in, but when her trip finally came, she arrived at the accommodation with her friends to find no-one there.

After calling the “hosts” numerous times, and receiving no answer, the neighbours confirmed they had never heard of the people Eva was needing to speak to...

Unfortunately, Eva had been the victim of an elaborate rental scam.

January is one of the busiest times to book a holiday, with many of us looking to escape the cold weather. But the enthusiasm for getting away gives scammers a great opportunity to steal your money, and as demand for rental accommodation rises, so do scam cases.

So what should you look out for when looking for the best holiday rentals?

Is the deal too good to be true?

Like many scams including investments or shopping, rental scams usually start with a great deal, that’s perhaps just a little too good to be true. When Eva booked her holiday, she thought she’d found an unbelievable villa for the price. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what it was.

So what should you look out for?

A beautiful apartment in central Paris available all summer and for well under the market rate - that should be a red flag. A stunning country manor home that’s discounted over a bank holiday weekend, and only has photos of the outside grounds - also a red flag.

Scammers want to lure you in with a great deal, but the reality is they have no intention of delivering what you think you’re getting. So - if the deal feels too good to be true, it probably is.

A top tip: Have you considered a reverse Google Image search? It’s not as complicated as it sounds, and could help you rumble a scam if you find the pictures are used elsewhere for something totally different… Go to (which opens in a new window), click the camera icon, and either paste in the URL for an image you've seen online, upload an image from your hard drive, or drag an image from another window.

Are you asked to pay outside of the platform?

For Eva, her AirBNB host wanted money directly into his bank account to help him avoid the platform fees, and give him access to the money immediately. Because of this, he’d be able to give Eva a better deal. He was convincing, reassuring, and communicative right until they arrived at the property…

The vast majority of accommodation providers will all have a payment processor through the website. If a company, or person, is asking you to move money directly into another bank account, or some form of ‘holding account', this should be a huge warning sign.

That’s because scammers can quite easily create a fake listing of the accommodation and then direct potential victims to pay a deposit straight into their account.

But when you pay someone directly, outside of the website, you lose the protection from the company you found the listing on. Accommodation providers are usually responsible for the properties available on their website, so their T&Cs can protect your money from scammers if you pay through them.

So never pay outside of the platform you’re using.

A top tip: For property sharing sites like Air BNB you should research the listing, and the host, thoroughly. Be wary of brand new listings and lack of reviews. These don’t automatically mean it’s a scammer, but teamed with other red flags, should be seen as suspicious!

Are you putting details into the ‘real’ website?

Unfortunately, it’s not enough just to pay through the platform. Fake websites are an increasing trend among scammers, and it’s a common move to create fake pages that look just like the original.

These pages are often sent as direct links in emails or texts,, encouraging you to make your payment. It looks and feels like you’re inputting your details into the real website to confirm a booking, but in fact you’re actually giving your card details to a scammer.

Fake websites can be sophisticated and hard to spot. You can read more tips about spotting a fake website here.

FYI: It’s not just AirBNB that scammers are using, other rental sites like VRBO, HomeStay, and even Wimdu can be mimicked. People can be less familiar with these other companies processes, and it can make it even easier for scammers to guide victims to part with their money…

If you have lost money via Wise to this type of fraud:

Let us know as soon as possible. Our specialist team will be in touch about how we can help, and what the next steps are.

Eva’s story is a combination of events that have happened to real people, but in itself is fictional to help raise awareness about financial scams currently affecting customers and people in the UK.

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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