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Please be aware of various scams in circulation regarding tourist accommodation. The two main scams usually involve either an initial request for availability or some form of money transfer as payment for accommodation. Some examples are shown below:
Unsolicited emails have been received from potential customers alleging to represent the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) when wanting to book accommodation. The following names have been used in email scams recently:
Veron Diego Peter
Please note that this list of names is not exhaustive and it is NITB policy not to make accommodation reservations via email without speaking to the accommodation providers directly in advance. Also, any emails from NITB staff members will always come from a nitb.com email address and should include a contact telephone number for the relevant staff member.
A number of tourist accommodation providers have contacted NITB regarding what appears to be booking scams.
The following information is designed to help make you aware of what form these scams may take, as they can often follow a similar pattern, and to encourage you to remain alert.
A booking enquiry is made (usually by email). Examples of the queries include:
• Reservations for priests coming for an event
• 2 couples from Russia on honeymoon
• An alleged employee claiming to be from UNESCO – visit http://www.unesco.org.uk//contact_us to see further details.
The accommodation provider replies to the booking enquiry with details regarding availability and costs etc. In most cases the booking is being arranged by a friend who will request further information from you such as address and phone numbers. Even if you send notification that the booking is not suitable, you may still receive an email advising that the terms are acceptable.
The booking is then confirmed by the initial requestor and details of how the payment will be made (usually by credit card, travellers cheques or bankers draft). The payment is usually for a greater amount than the actual cost with the accommodation provider being asked to cash the travellers cheques/bankers draft/accept the credit card payment and to send the balance to another person such as a booking agent, travel agent, translator, etc, whose details are provided.
If you proceed, you usually find that the original payment is not honoured by your own bank as the credit card/bankers draft/travellers cheques are fake. Whilst a stolen cheque or bankers draft can be recalled by the bank, even after the funds have gone through the clearing cycle and are showing on your account, any money transferred by you cannot be recalled once sent.
This type of scam is common for all sectors, not just accommodation. Scams continue to circulate using different emails, details and names but following the same format.
For more information, you can simply type the words “cashback money transfer scam” into your internet search engine.
NITB is aware of an incident where callers to a property attempted to distract the proprietor in order to potentially steal from the premises.
This occurred when two callers requested to view a room and, whilst upstairs with the proprietor, two further persons entered the property and tried to access a downstairs bedroom.
Please be vigilant and take any necessary precautions when answering the door to callers.
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) has advised NITB that they are continuing to receive reports relating to bogus invoices purporting to be from genuine service/product providers or false instructions to change the account details for future payments towards ongoing contracts.
The bogus invoice fraud usually involves a genuine invoice being intercepted and the account details given for payment are altered to an account under the fraudster’s control. The fraud will usually be discovered when the legitimate company sending the invoice chases for non-payment. Some incidents have also involved completely counterfeit invoices being submitted for payment.
Losses can vary considerably but often run into hundreds of thousands of pounds and several have exceeded £1 million. Some of the stolen funds have been recovered but inevitably this is not always the case as often the funds are quickly transferred outside of the UK which makes recovery difficult.
Look out for different contact numbers and e-mail addresses for the company as these may differ to that recorded on previous correspondence. The contact e-mail address may only include a minor amendment giving the impression it is the correct contact address. For example it will look almost identical to the previous e-mail address but may read “.org” instead of “.com” or “.co.uk”.
If you have any concerns regarding the above, further information can be found at www.nfib.police.uk
Northern Ireland Tourist Board
St Anne's Court, 59 North Street
BELFAST, BT1 1NB
Tel 028 9023 1221
Fax 028 9024 0960
Textphone 028 9044 1522
This is the industry site of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. Click here to visit our consumer website, DiscoverNorthernIreland.com