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DANGER - Scammer posing as landlord renting your apartment to tenants

We recently a booking from a guest who booked to stay in one of my apartments in North London. He then met with prospective tenants, pretending to be the landlord. He managed to get someone to pay him £1000 in cash to rent my apartment. The person who rented the apartment was luckily out of the apartment when my cleaner came to clean and he also left a contract for the tenancy in the apartment. She noticed it and alerted me. We immediately changed the locks and when the tenant came back we informed him that he had been scammed and that he has no right to the property. 

We were very lucky to have spotted this immediately.

I am aware of someone else who this has happened to and he was not so lucky. The tenants have realised that they were scammed and they have changed the locks to avoid losing the property. I'm not sure how he is handling this situation but I know it had been complicated by the fact that the female fake tenant is pregnant so it becomes even more problematic to get these people out.

My question is had this happened to anyone else, and what can be done to avoid this situation?

Also we spoke to the National Crime Agency and were told that Booking.com has some responsibility in this matter. What do you think Booking.com should do to ensure such serious crime against partners don't  happen and what should they do in a situation where such a crime had taken place and the partner is stuck with fake tenants that they cannot evict.

 

6 Replies

8
Leandri Klopper

Hiya, 

Wow thanks for sharing. That sounds horrible! So glad you got through it and had the good fortune of changing the locks before anything could go seriously wrong. 

Sadly this doesn't only happen to people who rent out their units on Booking.com. This happens to any property owner. And the police are the only ones who can really help with these situations. If you have the correct paper word (the deed or whatever you call it) to the property then the police can evict them. 

What has happened to us is that travel agents make bookings on Booking.com at our properties and then resell that at a much higher rate (obviously to earn commission) to their clients. The way we solved that was to make their prices higher. 

So sorry to hear about your experience though, perhaps one should post things like this on Facebook so the public can be made aware of scammers like that and think twice before just signing a contract. The tennant should have googled the apartment before signing... they would have found your place on Booking.com and knew something was wrong.

Keep well and thanks again for sharing. 

+2
26 days ago
7
fluff

Obviously the hotel environment is different but we have had similar a few times. A room is booked but someone else turns up, not the booker or a named guest. 

As most OTAs state, the card and card holder should be present at check in. If not we are at liberty to refuse the person attempting check in. Sometimes they have then produced their booking form from the third party which we then copy and report. Unfortunately the guest is the loser here, they are left attempting a refund from the dodgy reseller.

Check in is the main defence. You can vet the validity of the booking/person(s) there. 

+1
25 days ago
7
Thuild - Your …

Alright, but what do you do when say a secretary makes the booking for her boss? Or a company makes a booking for their employee and of course the name of the guest and credit cards will not match, ever.

We usually ask about these things. Sometimes the most common thing that happens at my property is, that cheating couples will book under one of their names and then the other checks in first, although the booker will also be present later.

23 days ago
4
Isle of Wight …

Ester, I've heard of similar happening. Scammer rents a holiday home, pretends to be the landlord of the property, tricks people into paying a large deposit to rent the property long term.

Is there any way you could "mark the property" as a holiday home, for example, having a sign by the front door showing that the property is a holiday home only? A sign inside saying "Beware of scammers - call the property owner on xxx xxxx".  It won't stop a scammer from renting your property for a week, but he might realise his scam won't work ....

 

 

 

+3
25 days ago
7
Katerinka12

What really surprises me again and again is how fast the police to put responsibility to someone's else shoulders ("Booking has responsibility")...Where in fact they had to accept the complaint and act on it, such as check CCTV cameras or at least make ocular inspection... get ID of the guest from the owner and check on him... etc

As Isle said about this scammer's scheme, it happens everywhere and there are just 2 factors that can stop scammer to do that in your property - very cautious host, who really checks IDs and conducts KYC and cameras within the property and it's vicinity.

We can't prevent scammers of doing criminal acts in our property, even if we do extra steps on checking their identity, they might still do bad things with providing all passports, etc. But we can encourage good people to rent from good host. No one stops you to put a profile picture and your name to your listing and warm introduction to prospective guests, so they know WHO is exactly the real landlord. You can even write "be aware of scammers, deal with real landlord". It might even boost your bookings :)

 

 

+1
25 days ago
8
Leandri Klopper

Super valid point @Fluff. Our check ins are very strict but we also do our arrival checks with the main booker about three days prior to check in. Although sometimes this procedure is unrealistic having more than 4 properties loaded on Booking.com which sees lots of reservations per day. The people running the resorts are very well trained though, should they find that the person standing in front of them and the information provided by us (the reservations team) is not the same, they will phone us to confirm and we will then follow up with the main guest. This rarely happens though. We send correspondence of the resort rules directly after receiving a booking and it states that we need the guest information of the person checking in. 

Hi Zsolt! Nice to see you are still around. Makes sense, there isn't really a Black and white way of saying who can and who cannot book. It's really more of a "take every thing as it comes" industry which at least have rules etc. 

@Isle of Wight Vacations - That is an excellent idea. All of our resorts have the branding everywhere but it's different as the properties are actual resorts. No one would be able to get away with trying to get someone to lease it. But it's a great idea if you have a holiday home. 

@Katerinka12 - solid points! And CCTV cameras work for other crimes as well. Always a good idea to have those, as long as you have someone to also monitor them. 

Keep well all. 

 

23 days ago