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.
The pictures change, sure. But make sure you read this part of each listing:
Safe, Iron & Ironing Mat, Hairdryer.
Air Cooling System
Direct Dial Telephone
Satellite TV, Music System
Same day Dry Cleaning service
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
Hour Porter/Security Guard, Hour Concierge,Private Car Parking at Extra Charge,Communal Courtyard
Cots & High Chairs Available,Welcome Packs,Maid Service once a week,Air-Port Shuttle
Apt Type: One Bedroom
Bed type: Real Bed
Cost: £ per Night – £ per Wk
Total Sq Ft: ( Sq M) approx
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 £+ 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!