‘It seemed so legit’: Ontario man pays $7,700 for luxury villa found on Booking.com, but the ad was fake

An Ontario man says he paid more than $7,700 for a luxury villa he found on a popular travel website, but the ad was fake.

“I’m so angry about this and it seemed so legit,” said Barry Goode, of Tiny, Ont., near Midland.

Goode was looking for a place in Costa Rica using the website Booking.com when she saw a luxury villa for rent.

“It was at the end of January that we quickly made the decision to go to Costa Rica for three weeks,” Goode said.

The villa he saw seemed to have good reviews. Goode said: “Booking.com found 61 other reviews and gave it a 9.8 rating, so that’s the first thing, it got a good rating.”

When Goode approached to book the villa, the owner said he preferred to communicate via WhatsApp.

“Then they directed us to WhatsApp and we started processing the payment through WhatsApp,” Goode said.

Goode wired $7,736 to reserve the vacation spot, but after doing so he couldn’t get more information about the villa and the listing changed.

“The day after I accused them of using fake photos and a fake listing, the photos changed. All the photos changed for my reservation,” Goode said.

When Goode complained to Booking.com, they told him he should not have transferred the funds and offered him $500 in compensation, which he refused to accept.

Travel expert Loren Christie said that once you operate outside of a travel website, you lose many protections.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s Booking.com or Airbnb, always communicate 100 percent through the booking platform,” Christie said, adding, “never send money independently. You should always keep in mind that carried out through the platform”.

After CTV News Toronto contacted Booking.com, Goode received an email from the company that said: “After re-investigating the claim and reviewing the information on file, we hereby offer to resolve this matter with a refund of $7,735.86”.

Goode was relieved to get his money back. “This is a big relief,” he said.

Booking.com also told CTV News in a statement: “Ensuring our platform is secure and reliable is our top priority. After investigating this customer’s case, we found suspicious activity related to their reservation and worked closely with the affected customer to process a full refund. Online fraud remains a problem in many sectors and is not unique to Booking.com, although we remain fully committed to proactively helping our guests, with our customer service team available 24/7 ”.

“We recommend carefully checking the payment policy details outlined on the property listing page and in the booking confirmation. If a property appears to request payment outside of what is on your confirmation, please contact our 24/7 customer service.”

“Please remember that no legitimate transaction will require a customer to provide their credit card details over the phone, email or text message (this includes WhatsApp).”

Scammers often create fake listings by stealing photos from legitimate websites. If you can, always try to pay by credit card as you will have more protection if something goes wrong.

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