SKI CHALET SCAMS LATEST
27th November 2019 | Jane Peel, Chief Reporter
Last modified on December 19th, 2019
More people have contacted a company which lists fake ski websites to say they’ve been conned out of thousands this autumn.
ChaletOwners.com is a luxury chalet reservation platform based in France, and it keeps an up to date record of the names of websites which are constantly springing up to offer ski holidays which do not exist.
Its co-founder Alexander Potapov has told PlanetSKI it has already had around 70 letters this autumn from concerned bookers.
About half the letters were making contact to double-check that the scam sites listed were really fraudulent before making a booking.
At least they did not fall victim to the scammers.
Others, however, said they had already paid for ski holidays and lost their money.
People are urged to be extra cautious especially with the avalanche of Black Friday ski holidays around at the moment.
Most of the bookings involved payments of between €15,000 and €20,000 for 10-12 person chalets.
Just this week the company received this plea for help:
Omg!!!! We paid them 20,000 euros in advance! Do you know anyone else who worked with them or booked through them? Maybe I can see how I can get my money back. Please anything you know can help me in here!
“According to our experience, the real wave of victims’ letters comes at the beginning of the ski season, as at this point people realise that they don’t have a real booking and start to contact hosts through ChaletOwners platform to verify it,” Alexander Potapov told us.
“The most tragic scenario is when people pay the full booking amount, come to the chosen resort and nobody is waiting for them and all other accommodations are already booked.”
The scams have become increasingly sophisticated.
We have reported on them over the last few years, most recently in October.
“We noticed that scammers not only copy images or texts from our platform, but also try to use ChaletOwners to contact legitimate owners and collect genuine answers to use them in conversations with guests,” Alexander Potapov told us.
He said the team at ChaletOwners are using IT skills to collect ‘digital fingerprints’ and other evidence to help track down the fraudsters.
They are in touch with enforcement agencies in the UK, Switzerland and Austria.
“The worst part in this story is that most probably people behind this fraud are related to the legitimate chalet industry themselves,” he said. “But on the other hand, it makes a list of suspects much shorter.”
Check the updated list on the ChaletOwners.com website.
And with Black Friday deals around this week, keep an eye out for dodgy retail sites too.
They tend to appear at this time of year too, as we reported in 2017.