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With the annual holiday season upon us, it is easy to get caught up in the hype of a good online deal and before you know it, you are scammed out of your hard-earned money and have no holiday to show for it either.

Leigh Mulholland, of Seeff ShortStay for Hout Bay, Llandudno and Southern Suburbs, says that with the explosion of online holiday and accommodation advertising and booking sites, it is easy to get caught. She gives some advice and a few important “need to knows” when it comes to booking holiday accommodation.

Do your homework, she says. Research to ensure you know who you are booking with as there are so many stories of scammers. Check the legitimacy of the booking agent or site as well as the establishment being advertised. Never transfer money unless you are 100 percent sure of the legitimacy of the advert and booking agent or site, she says. Be particularly scrupulous when it comes to unknown sites.

According to Sandra Cruz, Rental Property Asset Manager from Seeff False Bay, some of the well-known sites include Airbnb, Safari Now, Booking.com, TripAdvisor and the sites of credible local short-term rental agencies.

A next important aspect is budgeting correctly and verifying the actual costs. These adverts are often unclear in terms of what is included and what is not. It is not uncommon for certain activities to be add-ons to the advertised price and there is nothing worse than arriving for your holiday only to find that meals are not part of the deal or you cannot participate in all the activities.

Double check what is included and whether the advertised rates apply to the period of your booking as peak season rates are usually much higher. Mulholland says that you should also research the costs of restaurants and other facilities in the area to ensure that you budget correctly for your holiday.

The terms and conditions of the booking should also be scrutinised so that you know exactly what you are in for. Internet research and social media can be a great way to find out about unknown places or establishments. Be sure to confirm your booking before departure and find out where to collect the keys, and so on.

Mulholland says that you should also research the location. Properties advertised on sites such as Airbnb are often not clear about where they are located and holiday makers can be very disappointed to find that they are not actually getting a beach location but have to take transport to the beaches.

Check what facilities and amenities are available. Find out what the accommodation offers, particularly if it is self-catering. If you are looking for extras, check up on this, alternatively you may be better off upgrading your booking for better amenities.

Scammers and fraudsters are becoming more sophisticated and at this time of year use holidays as one of their tools to scam you out of your hard-earned money. They know that people look for good or last-minute deals, and millions of rand are lost to fraudsters in this way. An important final tip is to know that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it usually is. 

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