It’s that time of the year. The summer holidays are now a thing of the past and our attention is on the changing seasons. With the Christmas holidays on the horizon and the prospect of booking your winter vacation hot on the priority, it is unfortunate that this also the time of year when online fraud and rental vacation scams come to the fore.
Every year we receive calls from unsuspecting folk who have paid for luxury ski apartments or chalets but who have realised that the process of booking and payment has been unorthodox and a little fishy. As the exclusive operator of more than 70 luxury properties across the Alps and with a distribution network of over 500 worldwide agents, our properties can be the target of these cyber criminals.
They copy the images and descriptions and either create entire websites loaded with fraudulent content or they individually list properties on the plethora of platforms that have surfaced over the past five years, effectively exploiting the very tool that has revolutionised the home rental market across the world.
It can be incredibly difficult to spot fraud. The scammers are getting better and better at deceiving the market. At first glance their websites are very professional looking and are well designed, but with adequate due diligence you can protect yourself. Follow the simple four-step guide below to help ensure you are not being scammed when choosing your luxury rental home for your ski holiday.
1. Is it too good to be true?
This is the trap for 90% of fraudulent transactions. Ask yourself this one question and if, after adequate research online, you find that the luxury property you are about to book is significantly cheaper than through any other channel you find, then more than likely it is too good to be true.
Take for example the following website: www.premiumswisschalets.com. Even for us who are established professionals in the marketplace it is difficult to conclusively identify whether the site is fraudulent. They have a huge Facebook and Instagram following and publish feedback on their website. We know, however, they have never requested permission for use of our images, but outside of this fact the only clear sign that they are dodgy is the significantly lower prices they are advertising.
Take the following listing of Chalet Elbrus on their site … https://premiumswisschalets.com/rooms/sirocco-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-3-2/?portorder=menu and see the prices they are listing the property for (from CHF1,750/night), when in actual fact the low season price for Zermatt‘s Chalet Elbrus on our site (the exclusive operator of the property) is CHF42,000/week. By now alarm bells should be ringing.
2. Use Google Maps and streetview to verify
When a fraudulent listing is created on platforms like AirBnB or Homeaway, the fraudster often takes all images and descriptions but lists the property in an entirely different location. Use the advertised location alongside Google Maps, and if possible Google streetview to compare the actual exterior of the buildings in the advertised location alongside the advertised images.
3. Scrutinise contact with the agent/manager
Try calling the advertised number. It is impossible to get through on the telephone to www.premiumswisschalets.com or other suspicious websites such as www.richhuts.com. If you cannot get someone on the phone, you have a sure-fire warning that the contact is questionable.
If you are in email contact evaluate the quality of language used, and, if you are using one of the larger platforms, ensure that you keep all communication (and payments) through their platform.
4. Ask around in the marketplace
Finally, if you have an incredible offer on a luxury ski apartment or chalet, call around and speak to some of the more reputable agents and operators that have been around for a long time before committing with payment to secure the property.
Reputable agents are happy to be transparent about who the operator of the property is, which can aid you in completing your background research and fact-checking.
Adequate fact-checking and research in the industry should ensure you are not duped by online rental vacation scams. If you feel uneasy trust your instinct and dig a little deeper.
We set up our sister company Haute Montagne to cater to the exacting demands of our clients looking for the ultimate chalet holiday experience, expecting the finest luxury properties accompanied by the very best of service levels.
It is not by accident that the Haute Montagne experience has come to be known as superyachts in the snow.
Haute Montagne chalets are among the finest properties available to rent in the ski industry. They are the best properties in resort and are all stand-alone mega-chalets with beautiful furnishings and decadent spa facilities.
You will be looked after by a team of highly trained professionals, each selected for excellence in their field, attention to detail, and discretion.