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Monday 16 December 2013

Holiday Villa Scams - be weary of booking villas via Owner's Direct sites!!!

Holiday Villa Scams on the Increase - pays to be careful and book through an established agent! Owner's Direct sites are scammed - use a reputable agent.

We have have had a few clients who came to us recently saying that they were victims of Owner's Direct Villa Scams.  This type of fraud seems to be on the increase and people literally pay thousands of pounds via bogus Owner's Direct listings only to regret it later.  Owner's Direct sites are often not accredited - they appear over night on google 'looking good' and enticing  tourist with prices for holiday villas which can look very attractive but which of course are completely fake.

Even the long-established Owner direct sites have no way of vetting or establishing if a supposed owner taking and paying for advertising is genuine! Owner's direct sites do not offer clients financial protection or in fact any guarantee that the listings are in fact authentic – the only solution when parting with quite large sums of money for something as precious as family holidays is to book via an accredited, long-established, agent offering financial bonding, accountability and who can be traceable via companies' house as a registered company.  We at south France Villas are happy to say we can offer our clients all of the above - we have been established since 2000, we are a limited company, we also offer at no extra cost to our clients, and in accordance with ''The Package Travel, Package Tours Regulations 1992'' all passengers booking with South France Villas Limited are fully insured for the initial deposit, and subsequently the balance of monies paid as detailed in your booking confirmation form when you book through us. The policy will also include repatriation if required, arising from the cancellation or curtailment of your travel arrangements due to the insolvency of South France Villas Limited.

14 December 2013 Last updated at 03:45 GMT

Online fraudsters target ski tourists

By Jon Ironmonger BBC News

Travel agencies have warned of a new internet scam targeting holidaymakers who are booking skiing accommodation online.

Some people have transferred thousands of pounds to conmen posing as the owners of luxury chalets.

Chalet operator Consensio Holidays has asked for dozens of fraudulent chalet listings to be taken down from rentals websites.

Travel association Abta said it was a "growing problem".

It is planning a campaign in the new year to raise awareness of the issue.

Consensio Holidays' managing director, Ceri Tinley, said: "Fraudsters extrapolate pictures and words from internet listings for our chalets and try to pass them off as their own.

"Often they will embed their email addresses inside the photos, encouraging people to contact them directly in order to make a booking, before transferring money into their bank accounts.

"The clearest sign of a fraudulent listing is the cost - some scammers charge only 10% of the chalet's actual market price."

'We're savvy'

Manuela Zwingmann-Wood, from Hampstead in north London, has been caught out by the scam. Her friends decided to book accommodation online, paying £13,000 to a man who had posted a listing on a holiday rentals website.

She said: "My friend Julia found a spectacular chalet in Val d'Isere for a very good price. She emailed the owner who said he would give us a 5% discount. But the thing was he asked for her to pay by bank transfer. We all thought it was too good to be true, but it was a reputable website which Julia has used for more than 10 years.

These kinds of listings are incredibly rare, but when they happen, our team works quickly to ensure they are removed”

Airbnb spokesman

"We just couldn't believe how gullible we had been. We all use the internet every day and consider ourselves to be savvy - I can't believe we would fall victim to something like this. It is shocking the lengths that these people are prepared to go to."

Some scammers have apparently made even more elaborate attempts to exploit the ski chalet market. Three weeks ago the specialist travel agents, Oxford Ski, forced the take down of a website which it says was an almost complete carbon copy of its own.

Its director, Mark Gibbins, said: "It was exactly the same except they had changed some of the property names and set up outward links to unauthorised listings in Airbnb. They hadn't even bothered to change our business address.

"The current case in point is a chalet in Klosters. A client saw a listing on Airbnb and has paid 7,000 euros to a Lloyds bank account as requested by the person that listed with Airbnb. Since setting up the payment they have been unable to contact this person."

'Incredibly rare'

Over the next few months, millions of British holidaymakers are expected to book ski holidays in France, Italy and Switzerland.

Ms Tinley says she has serious concerns about the season ahead: "What we're now coming to see, and really worrying about is that come Christmas Day we may have two clients turning up, the client who has booked with us and perhaps others who have booked with these fraudulent listings."

Abta spokesman Sean Tipton said there were some simple measures people could take when booking ski holidays online.

"Ensure the company's a member of a trade association such as Abta or Atol and when you pay them, don't pay by bank transfer, go to a company that accepts a credit card or a Visa debit card, because if something does go wrong - if it turns out there's a problem with accommodation - you'll be able to get your money back through the credit card company or bank if it's a Visa debit card," he said.

The holiday accommodation website, Airbnb, which hosts listings for more than 500,000 properties, acknowledged that in some instances people had been able to post fraudulent listings for luxury chalets.

A spokesman said: "These kinds of listings are incredibly rare, but when they happen, our team works quickly to ensure they are removed from our community and we're always developing new tools to fight fraud.

"We also protect host and guests by handling transactions. When you use Airbnb, your money is protected and can be refunded if anything goes wrong."

Friday 13 December 2013

Things to do in pre-run to Christmas in the South of France - French Christmas Markets

Spend Christmas in the South of France
Montpellier - really decked out with Christmas lights and it has one of the best Christmas Markets in the South 


Strands of lights, brightly decorated wooden stalls and the smell of mulled wine and roasted chestnuts – the makings of not only the perfect French Christmas market, but the perfect winter getaway to the South of France.  Either as a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season or an unforgettable way to spend Christmas with the family, a holiday to the sunny South of France will make your Christmas even merrier.

Villas in Nice for Christmas

Although not the bikini weather for which the South of France is known, winters in this region are generally mild with sunny days and crisp nights – ideal for exploring Christmas markets (marchés de Noël).  Christmas markets range from big and more permanent in the larger cities, to smaller weekend markets in the villages.  The offers and wares of each market vary, but you’re sure to find artisanal treats, breads and chocolates, decorative and wearable artistic pieces and Christmas decorations to brighten your home.  You will also get a good feel for the regional taste and style as most vendors are local, selling locally produced, handmade products.  Make sure to enjoy a cup of mulled wine (vin chaud) or hot chocolate (chocolat chaud) while browsing the stalls.  Travelling with the kids?  Many markets have appearances by jolly old Saint Nick, and some even have small ice rinks or winter wonderland play areas attached.

Christmas markets usually begin at the end of November or beginning of December, and end on Christmas Eve or the beginning of January. 
Villa Rental in Cannes for Christmas
Cannes - Outside the Carlton - Christmas lights around the 20 meter palm trees are so quintessentially 'South of France'
Ready isit www.southfrancevillas.com, call +44 (0)207 060 5414 from the UK, +33 (0)467 360 554 from France or enquire by email at info@southfrancevillas.com

 Blog post - Ellen May.