*SCAM ALERT* Be smart.

Today I found this Web site.

On the surface, it looks like a legitimate booking agent for flats in Europe.

Having seen many Web sites similar to this one, I took it at face value. The prices are excellent. So, I sent an inquiry regarding an apartment in Dublin and another in Berlin. The response was friendly and prompt. The agent summarized the details of the apartment and even gave me a discount without me asking. They offered a free airport transfer too. It was really tempting.

But look a little closer.

Click on any city. Just pick one. Let’s say Paris. OK? View the apartments listed.

Then click another city. Amsterdam maybe? Or try Dublin or Berlin like we were. Tell me what you see. Notice anything funny?

The pictures change, sure. But make sure you read this part of each listing:

“FACILITIES INCLUDE:
Safe, Iron & Ironing Mat, Hairdryer.
Air Cooling System
Direct Dial Telephone
Satellite TV, Music System
Passenger Lift
Same day Dry Cleaning service
Refridgerator, Air-condition
Laundry facility available in the building
Cots / Crib available free of charge
Free of charge high speed Internet access in all apartments & Wi Fi in the lobby.
Linen changed once per week, towels changed twice per week. Daily service available at extra charge.
Fully equipped kitchen with hotplate, microwave, dishwasher, fridge, kettle, toaster, cutlery, china, glassware

ON-SITE FACILITIES
24 Hour Porter/Security Guard,24 Hour Concierge,Private Car Parking at Extra Charge,Communal Courtyard

SERVICES
Cots & High Chairs Available,Welcome Packs,Maid Service once a week,Air-Port Shuttle

DETAILS
Apt Type: One Bedroom
Bed type: Real Bed
Accommodates: 3max
Cost: £35 per Night – £240 per Wk
VAT: 1%
Total Sq Ft: 712 (70 Sq M) approx

BOOK NOW”

Check the prices, too.

How is it that flats in different cities, on different streets, in different buildings, owned by different people, all have the same facilities? How is it that they all cost the same?

Thanks to a combination of suspicion and pragmatism, I Googled the Web site and asked about it on the best travel Website of all time, Trip Advisor. Here’s hoping that TA will see my plug and duly reward me with perks.

On Google I discovered a lone Tweet bemoaning the loss of some £400+ to the aforementioned businesspeople who run the europevacationhomes.eu.com Web site.

Wow. That could have been me! Or you! Be careful folks. I’ve been around the block long enough to know this: If it smells like crap it probably is.

This scam doesn’t even look like one on the surface. It seems like a booking site no different than any other. But one thing is important to note. I found the link to this Web site not on Google, but on Craigslist. I would not typically trust Craigslist for short-term housing, at least when renting sight unseen.

The first thing that raised my eyebrows (after the cheap prices) was that every building had the exact same amenities. That is impossible, even in our homogenizing world.

The prices raised some red flags too. Not only were they uniform across different cities, but they were also lower than market value for similar properties on a short-term let basis.

Whoever runs this Web site is smart. They used a lot of different, but realistic, photos. They respond to email requests very promptly. They also price the flats so that they are just below market value but not so low that you would know something was wrong. They are just low enough to seduce the frugal traveler.

Fortunately, they can’t nail a smart traveler!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Darby says:

    It's the broken English for me…If they truly don't know English then then it is usually in native languages with an English translation page.
    It's good that you caught it & can give them hell all over the internet.
    Did you see the article in the NYTimes about staying at peoples places (extra rooms, etc.) while they are there or in town: http://frugaltraveler.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/28/staying-with-newfound-friends-for-a-fee/

    Also, I wondered if WWOOF – http://www.wwoof.org/
    was of any use to you guys. If there were any farmers growing beer ingredients where you could do a homestay/farmstay?

    I keep checking in!
    *Darby

    Like

  2. Sunshine says:

    Hey Darby!
    I don't think that broken English is an issue. Many people out there speak pretty good English but their grammar and written communication are not so good. In fact, I make a living by helping people improve their English writing and communication skills. So thank goodness for broken English 🙂 Also many people and businesses use Google translate to translate their Websites and we all know that those translation engines don't work that well on idioms and even some normal phrases.

    Although definitely use your intuition! It's my intuition that saved me from buying into this site.

    Thanks for the tips (and keep 'em coming!). Actually I am not at all interested in couch surfing or anything like that. It's so not my thing. I think I can say the same for Josh. However, I think it's a great idea for those who are into it.

    I have heard very good things about WWOOF! In the future I think that a farm stay would be a neat thing to do as long as I didn't have to kill any animals!

    More than farm stay I am interested in doing a Tibetan meditation retreat in Dharamsala…and Josh really wants to go to Bhutan so maybe in a few years we will do something like that 🙂

    Like

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