With the ever growing use of the internet to conduct holiday research and holiday bookings we advise people to be vigilant and beware cheap imitations! There is virtually no barrier other than time and a bit of development cost to creating a half decent looking website that looks for all the world like it sells lovely holidays but which in fact is completely bogus. With clients quite happy to pay tens of thousands of pounds for a luxury ski chalet it would only take one unfortunate purchaser to fall into the bogus website trap for the criminals behind the fake website to turn a handsome profit from their endeavours.
You may think that these sites are not out there, or perhaps are so obviously fake that no one could fall for the trap. However, you would be surprised. About 12 months ago we were approached by a distressed man who had just discovered he had paid many thousands of pounds for a New Year ski holiday that did not actually exist.
Just last week our attention was brought to a website called, Ski Moar. This website looks real enough and the luxury chalets featured on it look lovely. The chalets are all renamed to throw the hapless booker off the scent as this site, according to the real chalet owners, is allegedly completely bogus. If this is the case any money you might pay to them would not be securing a holiday at all. Instead it would be going into the pockets of the Chinese gentlemen who built the site.
Of course it’s entirely possible that this site is the real deal in which I owe them a large apology. However, experience tells me otherwise. The tell tale signs of a fake:
1) Obvious spelling mistakes on the home page – “PREMIUM SKI ACCOMODATION” maybe what the site is selling but premium grammar it is not.
2) There are no travel industry affiliations – There are plenty of bona fide travel companies without official affiliations with ABTA, ATOL, ABTOT or AITO etc. However, a website without any obvious connections with an official travel organisation should be approached with caution.
3) The postal address – I am sure that Aultbea in the far reaches of the Scottish Highlands is a charming place (it looks it on Google ‘Street view’) but it is a strange place to find a specialist ski chalet agency.
4) The lack of a visible telephone number – Most real businesses would be delighted to hear from their clients so it’s strange not to be able to find one for Ski Moar.
5) Some quick research on the named principal directors of the business – This would reveal that they actually work for a ski company called, The Family Ski Company, based near Worcester. As you can imagine they are mighty annoyed that their names have been associated with Ski Moar.
Beware Cheap Imitations
We are all aware of the phrase, “caveat emptor” but this has never been more pertinent than in today’s internet world where a wolf can be dressed in sheep’s clothing.
The scary thing is that although we know there are fake websites out there hoping to get their greasy mitts on your money there is nothing the international law enforcement community can do about it until someone actually loses their money. Since holidays are booked and paid for usually two months before they take place the crime can go undetected for a considerable length of time. And by the time the crime is discovered (usually when the client arrives in resort) the perpetrators are long gone.
So in this season of festive good cheer and general ‘bonhomie’ please be aware that there are sadly plenty of unscrupulous people out there. Our advice is that you should always conduct a little bit of due diligence on the holiday company you are about to pay considerable sums of money to. As is so often the case it is better to be safe than sorry – beware cheap imitations – they are out there.