Don’t let the Ugly Gorilla ruin your skiing holiday!
25th November 2016
Wang Dong (AKA Jack Wand and Ugly Gorilla) is just one of probably 100,000’s people around the world engaged in on-line fraud. These scammers move from market to market plotting scams to maximise their gain. Right now they know you are looking to book a skiing holiday, make sure you don’t get caught out by the Ugly Gorilla and his band of merry men!
How would you tell your friends the ski holiday you booked for them was a scam?
We must declare our interest here, as an ABTA travel agent, protection of our client’s money is a very important factor for us. Yet it seems, some ski holiday buyers are more interested in the price of the holiday than their financial protection. That’s a big mistake that you might later regret.
Skiline.co.uk go to extreme lengths to make sure we never fall for a con, we have been targeted a few winters ago when asked if we would offer for sale on our website a ski chalet in Verbier that didn’t exist. It was easy for us to spot as part of our due diligence we undertake with every supplier.
Imagine booking a ski chalet or hotel for your friends, you’ve collected all their hard earned money, and then you pass it to a crime syndicate in China to pay for your ski holiday! Your money is gone and so has your ski holiday. How would you break the news to your friends?
Its not just criminals who can ruin your skiing holiday, many independently run ski chalet operators and accommodation suppliers don’t offer any financial protection either, yet these companies expect you to pay for your ski holiday sometimes 12 weeks in advance. Sadly, more than a few of these independent smaller companies have very limited financial resources, a few unsold weeks is all it could take to bring some of these smaller chalet businesses to their knees. This will mean that you lose out on your holiday and join the queue with all the other creditors to get your money back, if there is any left!
5 simple tips so you don’t get stung when booking a skiing holiday
1. Make sure you know who you are dealing with, it’s the law that a website discloses who the company is, its registration number and its trading address. It is surprising how many travel websites don’t disclose this, if you don’t know who you are dealing with , who do approach if something goes wrong.
2. Check out the financial standing of the company you are booking with. There are more than a few Companies out there busy discounting holidays that we expect to go bust before the end of the winter. Some of you might remember Ski Power, a chalet operator who failed in the middle of the ski season leaving many skiers out of pocket. The Companies House website allows you to search the accounts of any company and its free to use. There is a well-known ski agent trading today who according to their accounts posted with Companies House show only £4,000 in the bank, liabilities of over £500k and the directors are still pulling loans out of the business totaling £100k. If their clients knew the full picture they probably wouldn’t choose to book an expensive skiing holiday with them! This isn’t an ABTA travel agent; with no finance behind them they would never get ABTA membership!
3. Take care when booking on websites such as Airbnb. There are lots of genuine chalets and apartments available to rent on Airbnb. What Airbnb do not do is check that the advertised ski chalet really exists. I wrote an article for the Skier magazine last year about this and to prove the point created a fake ski chalet post on Airbnb. It took less than 5 minutes. Anyone with a criminal mind could and do, do the same. When paying for your holiday through Airbnb only ever follow their suggested payment methods. Criminals will probably offer you a discount to pay the money directly to them! Don’t do it!
4. Some scammers go the full hog and create very convincing websites. Rightski.com was one such website that the police took over a month to take down last winter. The website was hosted in China and looked like a genuine ski travel agency site, they even used the name and ABTA number of a real ABTA agent. The giveaway was the price, a 30% discount over the half term week should have raised a red flag for most people, so remember if its looks too good to be true, it probably is. One of our clients lost £20,000 in the Rightski.com scam.
5. Finally, always pay for your holiday by credit or debit card, you have financial protection via the banks from both payment methods now. If your chosen travel company doesn’t accept payment by cards, don’t buy! There will be a very good reason why the banks won’t supply card merchant services, normally its because they think the business isn’t financially sound. Never pay cash directly into an account of someone you don’t know, if its an overseas bank the Police won’t be able to help if you are conned and your banks won’t help you either.