Ricochet News

How to protect yourself from potential holiday home scams

By Supplied - Oct 29, 2014
How to protect yourself from potential holiday home scams

The holiday season seems to lure out a special kind of con-artist, the one who takes his pleasure scamming you out of your well-deserved holiday.  Every December the media is a-buzz with stories of holiday makers who have been left homeless after discovering their perfect piece of holiday paradise was simply a scam.  The preferred con to trick you out of your holiday home is perpetrated by the scamster posing as the estate agent or landlord.  Michelle Dickens, managing director of TPN credit bureau explains warning signs that need to be considered prior to renting out a holiday home.

“If you are renting through a property portal it is common that the property will be rented property-unseen and without meeting the estate agent or landlord face-to-face.  This is the most high risk scenario, so authenticating the contractibility of the landlord or estate agent is important. Be wary of the landlord or agent who only communicates with you electronically,” Dickens explains.  “Other factors that need to be considered which might suggest that you are dealing with a scam artist is, if the potential estate agent or landlord is only prepared to communicate with you via a cell phone number and not a landline number.  Or if the email address that you are communicating on is a free email address and not a business email address,” Dickens adds. 

Dickens explains that there are a number of procedures that you can follow that will protect you against a potential scam.  “If you are dealing with an estate agent, you should ensure that they are registered with the Estate Agents Affairs Board and this can be done by simply logging on to www.eeab.org.za, to confirm if the estate agent in question has a valid fidelity fund certificate for the current year.  It is also a good idea to do a search on the estate agents own website to see that they are in fact active within the area,” says Dickens. 

“I would also recommend doing a search of the actual property on Google Earth to validate that the actual property that you are about to rent corresponds with the pictures that you have seen on the website.  Another preventative measure is to ask the estate agent or landlord to provide additional pictures of the property which were not in the original advert.  Doing a Google search on the landlord or estate agent that you are in contact with might also yield useful information about any previous cases have been reported in the media ,” advises Dickens. 

According to Dickens, most banks will allow you to perform an online Account Verification on the account name and number.  “I strongly suggest approaching the bank to do an account verification before making payment to ensure that the person you are about to release money to, is in actual fact the person that you have been dealing with.”

Lastly, Michelle suggests doing a deed search on the property if it really seems to be high risk.  “Doing a deed search is a good idea and this can be done through the government’s www.deeds.gov.za website,” Dickens concludes.


Photo caption: Michelle Dickens, Founder and Managing Director of TPN registered credit bureau. Photo: Supplied