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21 Feb 2018
Holiday scams: three red flags to watch out for

As you prepare for your much-deserved holiday break, you may be too busy to notice the red flags of a possible scam. At least, that’s what scammers are banking on.

Here are some tips you help you spot a holiday phishing scam and distinguish a counterfeit website from an authentic one.

1. Prices are higher on other websites

Rock-bottom prices are one way of tricking people to take the bait. So, when you find a nice apartment for a bargain price, try to find a similar offer on other websites. Cut and paste the title in the Google search engine and check the results that pop up. Scammers often plagiarize other websites, so you may well find exactly the same description on another website. Watch out if  you find that prices on other sites are much higher. You may then want to do some addition research to check whether the website is legitimate.

Below is an example of a fake (left) and authentic advertisement. The counterfeit fake website has a much lower price for the same apartment (click to enlarge):

 

  1. The reviews have been manipulated

Another way of checking whether a website is legitimate is by reading the reviews or ratings. When you do a Google search on a web address, you will quickly see those reviews. These may give you some idea as to what to expect.

To make their counterfeit website look trustworthy, scammers also post reviews themselves. And they often tamper with the review date to make the site look older.

You can check this by entering the web address of the site on Whois.com, where you can find the website launch date. Admittedly, this is quite a bit of work. In this example, the counterfeit website went online on 25 January 2018, which means the review dates shown below cannot be correct (click to enlarge):

In addition, you can look up who registered the website on Whois.com. If this is, for example, a person from the Cayman Islands and the website is about the Netherlands or Europe, then you know something isn’t quite right.

3. Links don’t work and translations are incorrect

Counterfeit websites often look authentic, certainly at first glance. But on closer inspection, you will soon discover that things don’t work or are incorrect. Scammers are hoping that visitors won’t notice this. The prices are set very low to deflect attention from any technical defects – a real trap.

So what are the warning signals to look out for?

– Check the social media links. These often don’t work on counterfeit websites.
– The links at the bottom of the website (the footer) don’t work either or only to a limited extent.
– Is the translation on the website correct? Or is it a product of Google Translate? For example, ‘Home’ should be ‘home’ or ‘homepage’ in Dutch, not ‘huis’ or ‘thuis’, which is a literal translation.

Also read: Checklist for booking your holiday home online