The festive season is a time of giving, but unfortunately also a time of reckless overspending. The Western Cape Office of the Consumer Protector, together with other provinces and the national regulators have decided to conduct a pro-active and positive campaign to raise awareness amongst consumers about the advantages of spending wisely during this period
We all know the festive season is intended to be one of enjoyment and tranquillity. However, coupled with this, consumers usually overindulge in several ways. With this campaign, the OCP would like to ensure that consumers do not overindulge as far as spending is concerned during the festive period.
The aim of this campaign is not to take the joy of giving away from this season, but to create mass awareness amongst consumers about the pitfalls of overspending and debt during the festive season.
This campaign will go a long way in making consumers think twice before deciding to buy goods that they may not need. We all need to adjust our budgets and try and live within our means especially during this challenging economic period. So, let’s keep our credit cards safely in our wallets and purses and start saving some of our hard-earned cash.
Beware of accommodation scams!
Vacation rental scam stories are all over the internet. The scenario usually involves a fake listing, a request for payment by EFT and after you paid, an end to communication from the property “owner.” When the dust settles, your money is gone and you have no place to stay.
Here are 5 tips that can help you detect and avoid holiday rental scammers.
Good Deal, or Too Good to be True
“If it looks too good to be true, it is.” This old saying is applicable in many situations, and you should keep it in mind when researching vacation rentals. While vacation rental prices vary based on factors such as number of rooms, amenities and location, you should be wary of any apartment of cottage that is offered at a discount. Always check rental prices for several properties in the neighbourhood you would like to stay in so that you have a good understanding of the going rates for that area.
Consider the Website’s Payment Methods and Security Policies
The safest way to pay for your vacation rental is by credit card. Regardless of where you live, credit cards offer more consumer protection than any other payment method. If there is a problem with your rental, or if you are the victim of a vacation rental scam, you can dispute the charges with your credit card company and have them taken off your bill until the matter is investigated.
Verify that the Property Exists
Use Google Maps or another mapping application to verify that the cottage or apartment you want to rent, actually exists.
Scammers have been known to use false addresses or to use addresses of actual buildings that turned out to be warehouses, offices or vacant lots. If you know someone who lives near the apartment of cottage, ask them to look at the property for you.
Conduct Online Searches
Before paying a deposit, do some research on your chosen property and its owner. Conduct an online search for the owner’s name, the property address, and images of the property, and if possible, who owns the rental website and who pays the property taxes. If you notice any discrepancies, or if you find the same advertising text or photos posted by two different owners, think twice about renting the property, especially if you have been asked to pay the rent in full by EFT or a similar method.
Rent Known Properties
If possible, rent a cottage or apartment that someone you know has already stayed in. You will be able to ask the previous renter about payment methods, rental policies and any other concerns you might have. As you begin to plan your trip, ask family members and friends if they know of available rental properties in the places you would like to visit.
Organisations and Consumers who would like to request Consumer Awareness and Financial Literacy workshops can contact the Office of the Consumer Protector on 021 483 9282 and speak to Mr Phenias Ncube.