Victorians are being warned to be wary of online scams when booking last minute accommodation this Easter.
Consumer Affairs Victoria received more than 2530 complaints about travel and accommodation in 2014-15, with non-supply of services and refund/return rights the top issues.
Minister for Consumer Affairs Jane Garrett urged holidaymakers to be particularly careful with online bookings as many con artists go to extreme lengths to make their advertisements look real.
Consumers who book directly with an online provider should research the business or individual first to make sure it is a legitimate business and look for a physical address including a search on Google Maps.
International student Joy was scammed out of almost $2,500 after she booked accommodation through an online website. When she arrived in Melbourne, Joy discovered the address did not exist.
To avoid accommodation booking scams:
- research the accommodation first. Read reviews and comments on travel websites
- be wary of providers which want you to pay directly (such as via money transfer)
- make sure the site has security features, such as a padlock symbol or 'https://'
- consider paying by credit card so you can get a chargeback if things go wrong
- check the accommodation's website for contact details, such as phone numbers and email
If you are in any doubt, consider booking accommodation through a reputable hotel chain to reduce the risk of fraud.
Remember, your Australian Consumer Law rights may also apply when you buy from an online business overseas, but it may be difficult to get a refund from international providers.
For more information and tips on how to spot a scam, visit consumer.vic.gov.au/ScamSavvy
Quotes attributable to Minister for Consumer Affairs Jane Garrett
“People put a lot of time, effort, and money into booking their holidays and it can be heartbreaking when they discover they’ve been duped.”
“Make sure you do your research before confirming any bookings or paying for anything and check the accommodation is legitimate.”
“Scammers are extremely sophisticated in creating fake online advertisements for holiday rentals. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”
Reviewed 19 August 2020