How it works:
- Version 1: fake listings on legitimate sites as well as fake sites.
- Version 2: apartments exist but are not as what was reflected in the photos. This is due to landlords who allowing overbooking of their properties and send you to another of theirs.
Places to beware:
What to do:
- Platform: use one with buyer protection rights: e.g. Booking.com (Frommer’s tests found it to have the best selection and rates).
- Red flags: cheap prices, copy-pasted description, dodgy sounding reviews, difference in photos and Google Street View pictures, payment off platform (bank transfer, Western Union, MoneyGram – these are irreversible), overseas owner, details not forthcoming.
- Due diligence: search online reviews and if apartment has listings across other platforms, check if they are consistent. Grill the owner by asking specific details or made-up details to test if he can call your bluff. Test him by requesting a visit by a local friend.
- Payment: do not pay in full upfront and off the platform.