How To Avoid Scams On Holiday Rentals In Spain
The majority of holiday rentals in Spain are perfectly legal. However, there are fraudsters who’ll take your money and you’ll never hear from them again. Read our tips on what to look out for and how to avoid problems, even with a legitimate rental.
More fraud is carried out in summer as rentals are short term. Scammers can make a quick buck by advertising apartments they don’t own, getting part of the rental price upfront and then disappearing.
In the past scammers would use low prices, but as people started to avoid these traps they have caught on and now tend to use pricing nearer to the market price.
Unfortunately many people still fall for the trick of paying a deposit with the promise of getting the keys by courier service. The keys don’t show up and you never hear from the “owner” again.
Sometimes the apartment does indeed exist, but when you arrive it’s nothing like the photos on the website.
Before You Start
You’ve seen a holiday rental that looks great, maybe even received an email with more details, now what?
First of all use Google Street View to check out the area and you can also use Google Images to see if the photos of the interior have been used elsewhere on the internet for other properties.
Watch out with the English/Spanish used in emails, scammers may use online translators and send out the same emails to all their victims.
If the only way to contact is by email, it’s probably a good idea to move on to another property.
Is It Safer Via An Agency?
Normally yes, but it makes sense to take a few simple precautions.
Anyone can set up a website in a matter of hours. Just because you’ve seen a website for Company X with apartments at great prices, make your own quick internet investigation. Most legal company websites are now SSL secured (in other words data is encrypted). Check that the website URL starts with https (not just http) and look for the padlock sign to the left.
Not a secure website? You could be risking more than your cash, scammers want to get hold of your data too.
On the website there should be a physical address (not just a mailbox number), contact telephone number and email.
Beware of email addresses with domains such as “gmail”, “hotmail” or similar – reputable companies tend to have their company domain in their email address.
Check the address of the agency with Google Maps – an address which leads to nowhere is a clear sign that something is wrong.
Normally agencies will have a Social Media presence, usually on Facebook, but possibility on Pinterest too. You could also take a look at Trip Advisor to see if there are any reviews.
Caution With Private Rentals
In order to save money many people still tend to use private rentals. In this case you should ask for the following documentation:
- Copy of DNI / passport.
- Copy of a bill related to the property to be rented, such as an electricity bill (although this does not prove ownership of the property)
- If possible, a copy of the IBI (Impuesto de Bienes Inmuebles) proving that the property belongs to the person who is offering the apartment.
Take a careful look at the documentation. Professional scammers can easily get forged documents, but the majority won’t bother. Remember to keep copies of all emails and text/WhatsApp messages as back up in case things go wrong.
When you decide to go ahead and rent an apartment, make sure you sign a contract. As a minimum the contract should include:
- Names and DNI/Passsport number of both parties
- Price of rental
- Dates of rental
- Amount of any deposit (and what it covers)
- Full address of the rental apartment
- If possible, request photos to annex to the contract as proof of both the contents and condition of the apartment
What if I Get Scammed?
Unfortunately too many scams never get reported as people tend to be embarrassed that they have been duped.
It’s important to let the Guardia Civil or Police know what has happened, both have specific departments for online crime.