Booking your vacation in advance is a very effective practice if you want to save some money, because the accommodations are usually cheaper. Precisely, we must be very careful with this type of offers in rentals because, sometimes, we can be in front of a cyber scam.
Andrés Soriano (CISO of Universae) tells 20Bits that "cybercrime has become one of the main risks for the world's population. In the last three years, cybercrime has increased by 72% in Spain according to the State Security Forces and Corps, in addition, this problem is even greater during holiday periods such as Easter, where cybercriminals launch their crimes".
The rental of tourist apartments is the perfect scam, but one of the keys to know if it is a fraud are the photographs, because if there are few, they are of poor quality or even if we detect that they are stolen from another site, it is very likely that we are facing a possible deception.
On the other hand, looking in detail at the contact person can give us clues to possible deception, i.e., there is a possibility that the owner may be reluctant to communicate with him or that he may offer an unsafe payment alternative.
Soriano explains that "cybercriminals organize themselves to publish vacation rental offers on different buying and selling websites. The photographs are usually fake or from other ads and the prices are very competitive. Normally, they usually generate situations in which the victim must act quickly, because if he does nothing or does not take the decision he will lose the offer".
Types of scams
There are two modus operandi for this type of scam, according to Universae's CISO.
The cybercriminal impersonates tourist accommodations, publishing an ad with a very competitive price, good location and photographs stolen from other ads. The victim will be asked to provide a photograph of his or her documentation, which will later be sold or used for other scams, and an advance payment of the rent as a deposit or reservation, or payment in advance of the full amount of the accommodation. After that, days go by and when the victim shows up at the accommodation he discovers that there is no reservation in his name.
The scammer pretends to be a person interested in renting an apartment, will gain the trust of the user offering the tourist accommodation by providing documentation (it may be an identity stolen from other scams) and will offer to pay in advance. When it is time to make the payment, the victim will be provided with a URL that impersonates the website of a bank in order to obtain the access data, and the offender, instead of making the transfer, makes a request for the agreed amount of money. If the customer does not pay attention to the concept, he may fall into a trap.
Tips to avoid fraud
Soriano recommends "avoiding direct contact on Internet sale and purchase ad platforms, forums, or messages that are spread through chain messages", because "there are official platforms such as Booking or Airbnb that have security measures when registering an accommodation, and even offer liability insurance in case there are problems".
Likewise, Internet users should be aware of the risks they face, they should be suspicious of bargains and it is advisable to check the websites.