How to avoid holiday housing scams in Switzerland
With the summer vacation just around the corner, the Swiss government has issued a scam alert, urging caution when renting holiday homes.
You have rented a beautiful villa overlooking the ocean and can’t wait to spend relaxing holidays there.
Should you be suspicious that this dream home doesn’t really exist?
It probably is real, but it may not be yours. In other words, when you get to your destination, you may find out that your accommodation — assuming you actually get one — looks nothing like the photo you saw online.
Each year, scores of vacationers fall for this scam —the reason why Swiss police and Swiss Crime Prevention unit (PSC) have launched a national campaign Thursday, alerting the population to be cautious of holiday real estate offers that may be too tempting.
The warning, which is part of a larger prevention campaign devoted to cyber scams in general, features a clip showing a couple departing on vacation, after paying a deposit on a villa, only to discover after arrival that the house doesn’t exist and their money is gone.
In most cases, the scammers take photos and descriptions of real ads from other, genuine, sites and drastically lower the price in order to lure potential victims. Then they ask for a deposit to secure the reservation, never to be heard of — much less seen — again.
“This type of scam results in the loss of significant amounts of money. In addition, crooks can use personal information provided by the victim to commit other offenses”, the PSC said.
How can you avoid falling into this trap?
The PCS urges house seekers to never trust a person they only met on the Internet, and try to verify the address and the existence of the accommodation by checking if the advertisement appears on other, credible, sites.
Most importantly, never pay a deposit without being sure of the landlord’s identity and credibility.
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.