Booking your holiday directly with an accommodation owner and worried about being scammed...

Honestly, it makes me so angry when I see guest posts on social media about being scammed when trying to book a well-earned holiday. Or booking accommodation that clearly is not being run professionally/safely.

We have been letting multiple dog-welcoming holiday homes in South Devon for 18 years now and So I have pulled this guide together in the hope that it helps.

These days scammers hack a normal account so the profile looks ‘normal and trustworthy’ 

Ways to spot a scammer

  • Often you get a message after you have posted in a Facebook group asking for accommodation, it will be out of the blue they will not have responded in the group. In the message they will say they have just what you are looking for, offer you a good deal if you book with them directly. NEVER EVER book anything that is sent to you this way. I Admin several groups and the number of people who I have seen lose money this way is terrifying.
  • They may say it is a cancellation and share a link to accommodation on a booking site. They will say that if you book it directly with them you will get a better price. Message the owner via the booking site and ask them if they messaged you on Facebook and you will find out the truth,
  • They have no link to either a Social Media page/profile or website, there may be multiple ‘excuses’ as to why they don’t but a Business Social Media page/profile is free to set up. Excuses such as ‘we are just setting it up/it is new to the market etc are all warning signs. If they are selling you a holiday as a business why are they not running it properly?
    • If there is a Social Media page, when was it set up? Is it recent? How many posts are there? Do they seem very impersonal?
    • No reviews anywhere, or any comments on any of their posts from previous guests
  • They ask for payment via PayPal friends and family
  • Look at the profile of the person contacting you, if the account has been hacked often the scammer will change the name. I have used my account as an example the two underlined names match. If they don't then it may be the person has changed their surname but if they are completely different it can be a red scamming flag.

What can you do to check the property is what it is being ‘claimed’ to be?

  • Does the price look ‘too good too good to be true’? Have a look at similar properties in the area and compare prices, if they are much higher then why? Again this linked with other signs may be a warning.
    • Sadly the press has decided that holiday homeowners are all ‘greedy’ and charge too much, a professionally run holiday let is not cheap. If the reason they are giving is that they are ‘not trying to fleece’ their guests or similar it sounds like a scammer or someone who is not running their accommodation professionally.
  • Ask to see proof of ownership e.g. an insurance policy or copy of their last PAT testing (electrical appliance testing) both of these are a legal requirements for a holiday let. They must not be taking bookings without those, no excuses.
  • Ask to see a copy of their booking conditions, access statement, and fire risk assessment these must be available for you to see before booking.
  • Find their phone number and call them, and ask them questions about the house and the local area. The answers should be immediate, and they should be knowledgeable. At a minimum, they should know where the nearest places to eat are and whether they are dog friendly. Check those details on the internet.
  • Ask for their email address, does it look like it is professional and belongs to that accommodation?
  • Look at the photos of the accommodation and do a Google reverse image search. Do they match the accommodation listed?
  • Do a Google Map Search is the accommodation where they say it is? 
  • If you get as far as paying check the name on the account is what you expected it to be.

What documents and equipment should a professional holiday let provide?

This is just a selection, not a definitive list as the legal requirements change. A professional holiday homeowner will be happy to let you either have the link to or provide a copy of these documents. So why do I care I hear you ask…. If an accommodation provider does not have the correct safety equipment and assessment in place it is you and your fellow guest’s safety that is at risk. Better safe than sorry.

  • Fire Risk Assessment
  • Smoke and CO2 detectors correctly installed and maintained
  • Fire extinguishers and fire blankets in the correct locations
  • Up to date Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR)
  • Access Statement
  • PAT testing certificate
  • Specialist Holiday Home Insurance


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