Met a family in Albufeira today who booked a bogus holiday through PT Villas Algarve, website ptvillasalgarve.com. Photos and details of the villa had been copied off another website, the company office address is a hotel in Albufeira and the phone number is not Portuguese, it is for Guinea-Bissau in West Africa! The website is also apparently hosted in Russia. The family paid by bank transfer and were sent a link to the villa and Google maps, no further information. They tried phoning the last 4 days and could not reach anyone, so realised that they had probably been scammed. They are obviously devastated, they have lost all their hard-earned money and their holiday is in ruins.
I found this family in a taxi, in my street. After they left to go stay in a hotel for the night, I studied the photos carefully and found the villa in question. I rang the doorbell and the owners, who are resident in the villa answered the door and were shocked to find their villa advertised on a fraudulent site. They showed me that their villa is advertised on Holiday Lettings for the summer only and this is where ‘PT Villas Algarve’ got their details.
To anyone booking a holiday, not just in the Algarve but anywhere in the world, please do your homework first before handing over your hard-earned cash, as there is too much online fraud around. Check that the company has proper contact details, not just a contact form but full address, phone numbers and if in the UK, a company registration number. Check that there are reviews online, not just their website but on TripAdvisor, Google and other forums. 5 Reviews on Facebook? Anyone can do that. 25 or 50 Reviews, far more legit. Don't also assume that a private renter is who they say they are. Again, do your research. Rather pay more money and know what you are getting and ensure that you have local management support. You never know when you will need assistance. Who will meet you? How will you get the key?
If you pay by credit card, you will get protection through the credit card company but if you pay by bank transfer, you lose everything. Some companies charge an admin fee for card payments, to cover their costs and sometimes, it is worth paying that little bit more, for peace of mind.
Also, please note that now that I have 'outed' this company, as soon as they find out, they will change the name of their website and pop-up with another name. The fact that they have over 30 properties does not give them credibility, they are all fake.