With less than three months to the start of the London Olympics, the hype is reaching a peak.
The opening ceremony for London 2012 is on 27 July and thousands of tourists are expected to flock to the UK for the Games and stay for the northern summer.
The organising committee expects to sell 8 million tickets, ranging in cost from 20 pounds for a garden-variety event to 2000 pounds for the best seats at the opening ceremony.
There is one certainty at an Olympic Games: scammers will be out in force. For the London Olympics and Paralympics, scammers are focusing on selling fake tickets and dodgy accommodation deals.
The ACCC, through its SCAMwatch website, has teamed with the UK Metropolitan Police Service to alert people to these online scams.
Scammers exploit the high demand for accommodation during the Games by setting up fake websites, posting fake advertisements for hotel rooms and holiday rentals on genuine websites, or offering fake accommodation or ticketing packages.
The accommodation offered may not actually exist or be available.
In the past, scammers have posed as property owners, booking agents or landlords and posted fake copies of genuine rental property ads on classified, accommodation and travel websites.
If you respond to the fake ads the scammer will ask for payments such as bond, rent payments or deposits in advance.
Some scammers have also requested copies of personal identification documents or other personal information which can be used to commit identity fraud.
Victims never receive the keys to the property and the scammer disappears with their money.
Potential travellers should also be aware of websites offering tickets to the Games.
The only secure way to buy a ticket is from the London 2012 ticketing website—www.tickets.london2012.com—or the Australian Olympic Committee or Paralympic Committee.
So how do you protect yourself from being stung? There are several ways.
Don’t trust the legitimacy of an accommodation ad just because it appears on a reputable website—scammers post fake ads on those too. Book accommodation directly with an established hotel or reputable travel company using their official contact details from a trusted source.
Research the property or hotel you are booking using internet searches and online maps to verify that the address exists. Check if official images match those in the ad.
Request a number of photos of the property from the agent. If they refuse, it may be because they have stolen a photo from a genuine ad and have no others.
If you want to use an agent or a website to book accommodation, research them online first. Check reviews and blog posts as many known scams can be identified that way.
Similarly, do an internet search using the exact wording in the accommodation ad.
Where possible, avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for upfront payment via money order, wire transfer or international funds transfer. It is rare to recover money sent that way.
Paying by credit card can, in some circumstances, provide safeguards that are not available when you pay internationally by cash.
For rental properties, insist on inspecting the property. A drive-by is not enough. The property may genuinely exist, but it might be owned by someone else.
Finally, if you think you have spotted a scam, report it to the ACCC via SCAMwatch or by calling 1300 795 995.
Don’t trust the legitimacy of an accommodation ad just because it appears on a reputable website—scammers post fake ads on those too.