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  3. 7 Red Flags: How to Spot Holiday Rental Scams in Kazakhstan
Astana, Kazakhstan • 10 August, 2023 | 09:37

7 Red Flags: How to Spot Holiday Rental Scams in Kazakhstan

A guide that could potentially save you money, nerves and time

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The travel industry has witnessed an impressive increase, as the number of tourists to Kazakhstan almost quadrupled in Q1 2023. Meanwhile, the stats on Q2 haven’t come out as of yet, the summer season is in full swing which also marks the prime time for rental scammers. Even if you are a pro at detecting all-too-familiar malicious pop-up ads or scam emails, new online swindle methods are emerging at an insane rate these days.

Recently some copycat glamping Instagram accounts have taken a toll on local eco-travelers, rocking Kazakhstan’s newsfeed and causing quite a negative stir. Don’t fall victim to these tricks while planning your summer rental and protect yourself from scammers.

Take precautions with QazMonitor’s list of 7 red flags and recommendations before booking a vacation rental via Instagram here in Kazakhstan.

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1. Check the location on Google Maps / 2GIS

Always ask for an exact address. Usually, bogus rentals are not registered on listings like Google Maps due to the failure to claim their Google Business Profile or simply to avoid negative ratings and cybercrime complaints.

However, it is not the key indicator of an account's credibility as some fake businesses on Google Maps have recently revealed themselves by editing existing company’s phone numbers to enmesh users into another scam.

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2. Do your research on Instagram

If you are looking for a small hotel or guesthouse in Kazakhstan, there’s a high chance that the company will not have its own website or listing on Booking. Instead, many businesses rely on Instagram ads, which many scammers take advantage of by mirroring legitimate companies’ feeds on fake accounts.

Once you choose the vacation rental of your dream, find some time to do research on profile names, phone numbers, and overall content to check their validity. For example, authenticating the pictures using Google’s reverse image search could be a good idea as the best part of scam accounts’ visual content is hijacked by well-established businesses. If there is a variety of matches in the process of sourcing, it strongly suggests a scam.

Legit business on the left, scammers on the right
Legit business on the left, scammers on the right

Unfortunately, some fraudsters on Instagram keep operating even after they get spotted by businesses that they copy. Some of them do not get banned, and they simply change their username to keep the bad publicity low. Check their username stats: chances are you will see dozens of account name changes — a big red flag, which often comes with suspicious geolocation of the account.

Moreover, pay attention to small details such as cropped images or forensic watermarks of Instagram's reels. Don’t be fooled by additional photos scammers may inundate you with, even though they may still seem to be legitimate.

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3. Try to talk to a real person on the phone

Since the majority of online scammers are operating from overseas, their preferred way of communication is messaging apps like Whatsapp. Protect yourself from getting conned by acquiring their local valid phone number and calling them directly.

Once you speak with a manager/business owner, try to collect as much information as you can to verify the data provided online later. Also, you may conduct a video call and ask for a little tour of the premises to assure yourself of the account’s authenticity.

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4. Make a short visit to the rental

For the most part, by the time scam victims realize there is no property existing just upon arrival – when their accounts and phone numbers are blocked by the frauds already – it is far too late. If you don’t want to find yourself in such a sticky situation, take the effort and go check out your holiday rental destination in the first place. Unfortunately, this is how the majority of the latest Instagram rental scams were exposed.

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5. Ask for a tenancy agreement lease/offer agreement

Prior to signing, make sure you are aware of all the terms and conditions. Check the document for the correct address, bank and contact details.

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6. Don’t make any wire transfers

A deposit to secure the property is part of a regular procedure for some glamping and holiday rentals in Kazakhstan. But asking you to make a wire transfer via a mobile number (private transfer payment) upfront, to the personal bank account, or to use different payment systems (e.g., QIWI wallet) is one of the biggest warning signs.

Current banking apps in Kazakhstan (e.g. Kaspi, Halyk Homebank, etc.) offer advanced features so any registered and accredited company can use your cell telephone number and send an invoice comprising the organization's name, address, phone number and a message from the vendor. This payment method is generally considered safe and can be easily traced. Remember, never provide your personal data or credit card information!

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7. Check for some major online holiday rental red flags

If you want to quickly 'tick the boxes' that could give away a suspicion account, here is a short list of things to be careful about:   

  • way below market price

  • zero Instagram mentions or stolen ones without links to original posts

  • empty comment section/ disabled comments

  • poor following

  • frequent name changes

  • all photos on the account were posted on the same day

  • suspicious account location

Bear in mind, this is not a definitive list as scammers invent new schemes every day. Plan your holiday thoroughly and choose the accommodation wisely.

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