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Northern Ireland hospital worker loses £900 in accommodation scam

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Trading Standards Service (TSS) has become aware of a Belfast hospital worker who lost around £900 after being scammed trying to book accommodation in Europe for a short break with friends.

The consumer had gone on to a popular website that allows property owners (hosts) across the world to advertise spare accommodation, such as rooms or apartments, that visitors can rent out for short term use. The consumer viewed details and photographs of an apartment in Amsterdam and then contacted the host by email. A price was agreed for the rent of the apartment for three nights.

Payment should have been made via the website but the consumer responded to a fake method of payment email that came not from the website but rather the host. Unknown to the consumer they made a bank transfer “offsite”. Only when they didn’t get a receipt did the consumer suspect there was a problem. The website later confirmed that payment had not been properly conducted through their correct business channels. The consumer’s money is lost and the accommodation, like the host, was bogus.

This highlights how scammers are targeting unsuspecting people by using increasingly sophisticated and manipulative tactics. This was the first time the consumer had used the website and had innocently conveyed this to the host. This facilitated the scam. The consumer had no reason to suspect they were being duped when they were sent false payment details.

Bill Malloy, TSS, said: “Ingenuity knows no bounds when it comes to fleecing consumers of their money. With the internet, scammers and victims don’t meet face to face. The scammer can be anywhere in the world.  Do not be rushed into sending off money to someone you do not know, especially by bank transfer. As a safeguard, try and use a credit card or debit card to make payment.”

Consumers who feel that they are a victim of a scam or suspect a scam should contact Consumerline on 0300 123 6262 or alternatively log onto the Consumerline website at http://www.consumerline.org

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