Visit Isle of Wight and an Island B&B owner are warning accommodation providers on the Island to be aware of a scam, which could cost small businesses thousands.
Shona McMillan of Koala Cottage in Godshill received an email from someone claiming to be from France, asking to book accommodation for a month. The scammer promised to send money to cover the full amount by cheque as they were unable to do a bank transfer.
The scammer then contacted Shona again, saying they can only stay for a shorter time and asked the B&B owner to refund the difference immediately.
If the scam had been successful, the cheque from the scammer would not have cleared, Shona would have lost the money requested by the scammer, and potentially lost out on guests turned away for the time period originally booked.
The owner of Koala Cottage spotted the scam almost immediately, and is now warning other Island businesses that they might be targeted in the run up to Easter and summer on the Isle of Wight.
Shona McMillan said: ‘At Koala Cottage, it’s just three luxury suites that we provide, so blocking out someone for a one month period, even in the winter season, is a third of my business blocked off to that one scam guest, so it has a huge impact on any small business.’
And Shona had this warning for her fellow business owners on the Island: ‘I have heard of people losing a lot of money from this and I think it’s really important for other B&B owners, hoteliers and self-catering accommodation owners to be aware of this because it is too good to be true, trust your instinct with this and just check carefully.’
Visit Isle of Wight is urging businesses to be vigilant. Amanda Coleman, Wight BID administration officer said: ‘Just be really careful, double check everything, don’t give out any details and report anything that you think is untoward because there are so many out there.’
Isle of Wight Council’s Trading Standards team manager, Julie Woodhouse, said: ‘We ask Island businesses to be vigilant with scams like this and to get in touch with us. If something sounds to good to be true, it usually is. Another warning sign is that you have to make a quick decision – scammers don’t like to give you time to think.’
For advice on scams call – Citizens Advice consumer Helpline: 03454 04 05 06. To report a scam call – Action Fraud: 0300 123 2040