Friday afternoon, the Queensland police released an online warning for consumers accessing accom provider websites in the lead up to the festive season.
“The new scam occurs when consumers submit email inquiries in relation to securing accommodation over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period,” read the warning.
“Scammers ask the consumer to pay a deposit directly into a bank account to secure the accommodation, and if the victim then tries to contact the scammer, there is no answer to calls or emails.”
Acting detective superintendent Terry Lawrence of the State Crime Command’s Fraud and Cyber Crime Squad says the scammers will often go to great lengths to “sell” the accommodation.
“The scammer will go above and beyond to secure a sale, emailing back and forth with the consumer, but once a deposit has been transferred all communication ceases.
“We urge all consumers to be cautious before acting on any emails received. Triple check that the URL, website and email address is correct and be aware that links may redirect you to a fake address.
“Ask to speak to someone on the telephone if possible, and be wary of any email asking you to directly transfer money into a bank account. Never click on links in these emails and do not reply to them,” Acting Detective Superintendent Lawrence said.
“The majority of complaints received so far have involved consumers specifically seeking accommodation on the Gold Coast over the Christmas period.”
Police are urging consumers to be vigilant when conducting any transaction online, and recommend the following:
- Only use a reputable accommodation provider website
- Look for reviews of the accommodation provider as well as the accommodation you are interested in booking prior to making a transaction
- Do not pay directly into a bank account – use PayPal
- Always check website and email addresses. Scammers often use near-identical email addresses with only the ‘.au’ missing
- Contact the accommodation provider by telephone if possible
For more information about online scams or to report a scam, visit www.scamwatch.gov.au.
Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.
Crime Stoppers is a registered charity and community volunteer organisation working in partnership with the Queensland Police Service.
For all non-urgent police reporting or general police inquiries contact Policelink on 131 444 or Policelink.qld.gov.au 24hrs a day.