Two villa rentals companies have had their websites shut down following allegations of fraud made against them.
Reputable retailer Villa Plus reported www.cycladesrentals.com and www.luxuryrentalsvilla.com to Action Fraud alleging they were promoting its exclusively contracted properties and was using its copyrighted imagery.
Nick Cooper, founder and co-owner of Villa Plus, said there had been a noticeable increase in the number of such sites since August last year.
Cooper said: “We are doing our best to stop this before people lose money. I’m not losing any money over it, but holidaymakers need to know they must book from a reputable firm otherwise they can be stuck abroad without a place to stay.”
He said around 40 pictures of Villa Plus properties are on the sites “showing clear copyright abuse”.
Prior to the closure of the sites Cooper had got his lawyers to write to website host GoDaddy to take action, however it said it was “not our place” to determine if its sites were doing anything illegal.
A spokesman told Travolution that Go Daddy could act only when court orders were filed.
Alex Stuart, general manager UK for villa specialist Novosol, said the firm had not been targeted but was aware of similar scams.
“Even if it’s not affecting us, it affects consumer confidence,” he said. “We want people to book our properties, either through travel agents or direct. Not with a fraudulent website.”
Stuart added that direct bank transfers – as requested by both www.cycladesrentals.com and www.luxuryrentalsvilla.com – were a warning that the site could be up to no good.
The Prevention of Fraud in Travel (Profit) group chairman Barry Gooch advised consumers to book via “reputable websites” to ensure they had full protection.
“Consumers have to be very careful when booking, and stick with brands that they know. The same sort of thing happens in other parts of the industry but they are taking action.
“It’s a stain on the industry so we would very much welcome participation from holiday home rental companies in trying to harden the industry against these sorts of attacks.”
Travolution contacted both the websites in question. Cyclades Rentals claimed it had the rights to advertise third party villas but its email address has since been shut down. Luxury Rentals Villa did not respond.
A City of London Police spokesman said: “Following an allegation made to Action Fraud the City of London Police requested the suspension of website domains. The Internet service provider has since taken down the websites.”