Hi, have finally booked a villa (thanks to everyone who helped!) and I have to pay a deposit. The email comes via Owners Direct and says that you should phone the person before paying. I'm not sure what the reason for this is but presume its to check they exist? But then how does that protect you?
always speak to the person and find out who they are etc. owners direct does not individually vet the people that advertise with it. it is just an advertising portal and anyone can join it providing they pay the cost of the advert. you need to make reasonable checks.
google the name of the villa and the address. sometimes people nick photos from other adverts and change the villa name. look on tripadvisor at reviews and then ask the reviewer if the person they hired from was actually called XX.
all you can do is take reasonable precautions. if it all seems too good to be true - really cheap compared to others - then in likelihood it is. lots of people get scammed through these websites because they mistakenly think it is like booking with thompsons or virgin where the villa has been vetted. you don't hear that much about it because people are often embarrassed to admit they have been scammed.
we recently went to Sardinia and met two couples that this had happened to. turned up to meet the person outside the apartment only to find the apartment existed but was owned and let by someone else.
good luck and have a look at places like tripadvisor who give checklists for how to make sure something is genuine and you don't get scammed.
Thanks. I googled the person so they definitely exist and I spoke to them on the phone. I googled scams and it seems that rather than the person not really owning the property it is more common for them to hack into the account so you think you are emailing the owner but you aren't. I feel reasonably satisfied that I have done what I can to be safe so thanks for the advice (although our place only has a few reviews!)