Over the past couple of years most cottage owners have become familiar with over payment scammers (if you haven’t then please read our article to find out more). However, over the past few weeks, a new breed of scammer has raised its ugly head and we wanted to provide you with information which should hopefully prevent you getting caught.
It would appear that the primary aim of this scammer is to gain access over its victims webmail account. We will explain a little bit more about how the scammer works and the potential risks below but firstly let us highlight the key ‘takeaway’ from this article: never click a link that an ‘enquirer’ (i.e. fake holiday maker) provides in their communication with you regarding a booking, unless you are 100% sure it is safe.
How this phishing scammer works
As normal they operate under a number of different names – these are just a few that we are aware of: Gloria James (email@example.com); Guadalupe Spurr (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Daria Louise (email@example.com), along with Alicia Nelson; Asford Sussan and Greg Holly but there are sure to be more! One thing to note is that throughout the course of communication this person may become forgetful and respond back under a different name, so if you have an enquirer that communicates using different names, be cautious.
An initial enquiry will be sent to the cottage owner which looks fairly genuine at first glance as the scammer asks questions such as: ‘Hi can you tell me if your property is available on the above dates? Also is there wifi at the property? Is there a local shop/bar within walking distance? Thank you. Regards‘. Upon closer investigation you will see that the telephone number is more often than not invalid.
The second communication is when most owners become suspicious as the rogue ‘enquirer’ will create a scenario which encourages the cottage owner to click a link they have placed within the email. For example:
Thank you. We would like to go ahead with the booking of your property for these dates (which are flexible depending on fligts) but please let me know where exactly is it located.
Is it within walking distance to amenities or do we need a rental car.
We ve been checking the map on the website, could you please confirm that the following link on Google Maps shows the correct location of your house? Is it the one on the left or the one on the right side of the image?
Would you please advise us on how to proceed?
Sent from my iPhone
This is another scenario that they have used:
I am glad that is available.
Please find attached the Enquiry Form our passports and our reguests, (our full names – persons, address, phone number contact, email address and the period that interests us. We have put flexible dates, just let us know wich one is available.
After you complete with our dates i will make payment straight away.
Sent from my iPhone
As you can see, the grammar used is not very good which is often a giveaway sign for a scammer but not always!
The aim of the scammer is to get you to click the link they provide. If you do, it will take you to a fake log-in page which they have set up to look like a well known webmail provider (in the case of this scammer they set the page up to look like a gmail login page). Many owners will not fall for this but it can catch an owner out if they have a webmail account with that same webmail provider. If you briefly drop your guard and enter your login details (account name and password), the scammer will then have a record of them and is able to login to your webmail account and wreak havoc (possibly without you even knowing). Once they have your login details they can take on your identity which poses a huge risk (find out more about mitigating on-line fraud risks).
This scammer is currently contacting many cottage owners via a number of different advertising websites, posing as a holiday maker enquiring about a cottage. As time goes on, scams are becoming more clever and plausible so make sure you are not the next cottage owner to get caught!
Here are a few general tips to help you avoid scammers:
- Pay attention to the grammar used in communication with a potential guest and be cautious of those displaying a poor use of English (although this can be the case for genuine foreign holiday makers).
- Never click on links unless you are confident they are genuine.
- If a potential holiday maker is overly flexible (with dates, prices etc), be cautious.
- Be cautious if an enquirer responds under different names.
- If you are concerned about the authenticity of an enquirer, request a phone number and try to speak to them in person – scammers are highly unlikely to speak to you!
- If a booking appears to be too good to be true, it usually is!