Authorities have been urged to do more to protect travellers from holiday rental fraud in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics.
Tens of thousands of Britons and foreigners are expected to visit the capital during the games next summer.
The owner of a London-based lettings agency said this week that more needed to be done to prevent many of them falling victim to online fraud.
A report by the Telegraph details the case of Julie Madison, 38, who owns nine properties in the capital, which she advertises through her own website, www.holidayrentalslondon.com.
She discovered that her registered company name and address were being used by a website advertising non-existent holiday homes, and unauthorised advertisements for her properties were appearing on the website Craigslist. She said attempts to report these cases of online fraud had met with "no interest" from the police and fraud authorities.
Last month, the online forum Scamwarners.com alerted Mrs Madison to Holidayshelter.co.uk. The site – registered on June 5 – listed properties to rent in London, with descriptions copied from legitimate estate-agency websites. It used the registered name HolidayRentalsLondon and the business address of Mrs Madison's company. Its stated Companies House number related to a Sutton-based electrical firm, which said it had nothing to do with the website.
Mrs Madison reported the matter to the police on 11 June and was told that the information would be treated as intelligence, but because she had not suffered financial loss no action would be taken. The website remained online. This was confirmed by the Metropolitan Police and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB).
Mrs Madison offered the email address and bank account details to a police officer who, she says, refused to accept them. 'Unfortunately, the criminals seem to show more initiative than the police,' Mrs Madison said. 'As far as I can see, nothing is being done to prevent people becoming victims. When the website is clearly fraudulent, it should be shut down.'
Avoid online fraud with the Telegraph's four top tips:
Take your time Double-check details when entering your holiday requirements on a travel website, and be wary of rock-bottom prices.
Be vigilant Check the track record of any holiday retailer unfamiliar to you. Don't reply to unsolicited emails from retailers you don't recognise. UK-based companies should have a physical address and telephone number on their website. Check company information on the Companies House website.
Do your research If a phone number for the property isn't provided, request one by email. Get the full address and find it on Google maps. Ask for references from other people who have visited the property; contact them directly.
Pay it safe Look for a padlock symbol in the bottom right of the browser, or for the payment pages to begin with "https://". Keep purchase records and check statements. Credit-card purchases of goods costing more than £100 and under £30,000 are protected by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
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