I am going to be travelling to Netherlands and trying to book a farmhouse for 3 night long stay. The farmhouse I am looking at is listed on Booking but is unavailable on the dates I am interested in. However, when I contacted the property directly I was told that there is no problem to book the place and was asked to pay a 30% deposit by transferring money to their bank account. Is this something common? Or should I skip and look somewhere else?
It is difficult for us to tell you if you are being scammed or not since you are the one with all the information. So the burden is onto you.
I would ask for some sort of proof that the deposit is required and that it guarantees your booking. Off the top of my head such proof could be:
- an invoice
- a signed booking contract
- a proof of payment
I would also try to obtain any sort of proof that the person asking for the deposit is in fact the owner/manager of the property - name, address, etc. Best way to do this is to get in touch with the property. Generally speaking, I'm pretty sure that if you get in touch with them and they are genuine they will have no problem in demonstrating this. Be forward and explain that you want to make sure that nothing is wrong before transferring money cross-countries into some stranger's bank account.
It is worth noting that Zach Lipton is right. By booking outside of booking.com (or any other trusted site)
you will lose any protections that you’d normally have by booking through a service. If it does turn out to be a scam or it goes south in some other way, your money is likely unrecoverable
When I booked places in the Netherlands (multiple times) through Booking.com, the deposit was either charged to the credit card I provided when booking or it was collected when I arrived, with full payment as I was leaving.
That said, as the accepted answer points out, bank transfers are a normal way of making payments in the Netherlands. It may be a scam, but it's also possible that the person renting it is either doing business in a way that they are used to or wants to cut out Booking as the middleman and avoid credit card payments, which saves them money. Dutch people love to save money.
Short answer: it depends.
Long answer: it depends...
While advance fee fraud is common on sites such as Airbnb1 2, if you're not being specifically asked to go outside of a site's in-built payment structure, banks transfer is also a very common way of paying for deposits on things like holiday home rentals in much of Europe.
There are some sites and rental owners who I'd absolutely trust 100% doing this with and it's the normal and culturally expected way to do things.
There are other circumstances where I'd be 95% sure it's a scam. Experience helps.
Things to look out for are stolen images (use a reverse image search), clones of listing websites (are you sure it's the real Booking.com?) or copy-pasted descriptions. Basically you want to try and verify that a) they actually have the rights/access to rent the property, b) the property exists, and c) you know their actual real life identity.
As ever, a suspiciously low price is another red flag to look out for.
You have zero protection paying by bank transfer so make sure you're really confident it's legit. On the other hand, it's the easiest method in many cases.
There are some people who would say never ever pay for anything online with a bank transfer. I'd not go this far, but see if you can find alternatives that offer you better protection (even if you have to pay some amount in fees).
Pushback from the seller against alternative payment methods is another strong red flag. I would be concerned why they won't go through Booking. Offer to pay the fees they charge and see what they say.
If you decide to go ahead, be sure you are familiar with the following scam methods:
- Advance Fee Scam
- Phishing Scam
- Travel Scam
- Overpayment Scam
- Third-party Booking Scam
You might both also be breaking the site's T&Cs.