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Ski Operators & Chalet Owners Targeted by Fraudsters

While we’re all pre-occupied with Covid-19, it seems the criminals out to steal our money are working harder than ever. A huge wave of fraud of has recently been detected.

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Every year skiers and snowboarders looking to book ski chalets independently have been tricked out of thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of pounds.

The con has been around for years but the scammers have been getting more and more sophisticated.

We have investigated extensively in recent years.

Most of the fake websites and social media accounts targeting winter holidaymakers tend to emerge in the late summer or autumn.

But now there’s a new development.

Ski operators and chalet owners themselves are being hit.

It seems that the fraudsters are making enquiries from what appear to be genuine email and IP addresses with the aim of gathering useful information to use in their scams.

“In the last few weeks we recognised a huge wave of fraud activity on the market,” Alexander Potapov, co-founder of ChaletOwners.com told PlanetSKI.

“The main target is to collect genuine answers and documents, as well as exact locations.

“In previous years it was a lot easier to recognise fraud accounts, as most of them have been using African or East European VPN’s (virtual private networks) to cover their IP addresses.

“This year is different. The scammers are getting more sophisticated and started to use ‘good looking’ accounts.

“Now enquiries are coming from local free email providers, such as Bluewin.ch /T-online.de and residential Swiss/German IP addresses.”

ChaletOwners.com is a luxury chalet reservation platform based in France.

It keeps an up to date record of the names of fake websites which are constantly springing up to offer ski holidays which do not exist.

Alexander Potapov says that it’s technically impossible to recognise the latest kind of activity as fraudulent but there are still a few patterns to help determine a scam:

  • Most enquiries are for two-week bookings, like the Christmas and New Year period, and for a group around 8-10 people
  • Scammers know they can be recognised by their writing manner, therefore they mostly use lower caps messages without punctuation, eg, ‘thank you for your message could you please indicate the process to book ?many thanks’
  • Scammers often ask for the exact location, eg, ‘yes we would like to know exact location as we know Megeve very well and if possible a layout is there a swimmimg pool ?many thanks”.

Mr Potapov says the scammers are real people, not bots, and there is no 100% technical solution.

“Please be vigilant and stay safe,” he warns.

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