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How to Avoid Accommodation Scams at the Cannes Film Festival 2013
By CannesGuide Editor, Posted 02-Jan-2013
With new year done and dusted, it's now time to start looking at accommodation options for Cannes 2013. Although still fairly rare, scammers do take advantage of events run in Cannes and the film festival is no exception.
Scams come in various forms, but the central theme seems to be as follows. You see web site or receive an email offering apartments for rent in Cannes at what seems like a decent price. You then go through a booking process which involves paying a deposit (or in full) and you receive confirmation via email. You show up in Cannes... only to find that the accommodation you've booked doesn't actually exist or it was never booked for you and is occupied by someone else. And the 'helpful' agent you dealt with during the booking process suddenly stops responding to emails and phone calls.
Fortunately, scams are still fairly rare, but you should remain vigilant none-the-less. To protect yourself, book through trusted agents such as Immosol, Everything Cannes, Destination Cannes, Dovetail Foks, or Central Cannes. There are of course also many other honest booking services and property owners out there, so with some caution and a little common sense you should be fine. When booking accommodation in Cannes, keep in mind the following questions:
1) Suspiciously Cheap? During the film festival accommodation in Cannes is in massive demand. Prices reflect this. Any flat or hotel within 15 minutes' walk of the Palais should always feel expensive for what it is. If you find yourself thinking the price sounds reasonable, approach with a healthy scepticism.
2) Short Stays? As already mentioned, high demand means most hotels and properties within the Ring are offered on a block-booking basis only. Be wary of any well-located property which offers bookings on a daily basis. It may still be legit, but this is so rare that itís worth approaching with caution.
3) Photos? You should insist on seeing photos of the actual property before booking. These should look like they've been taken by a normal person, not a professional photographer. Raise your guard where the photos feel like they've come straight out of a furniture catalogue or lifestyle magazine, as stock photos can easily be used to hoodwink potential victims. And always insist on seeing at least one photo of the exterior of the property. Cannes has pretty good Street View coverage in Google Maps, so in many cases itís easy to verify the building is where they say it is.
4) What's Nearby? If your suspicions have been stirred, a good trick is to ask the owner or agent to recommend local shops and restaurants which are near the property. You can then use Google Maps to verify, although bear in mind that Google Maps isn't updated super frequently.
5) Payments? It's common for property owners or hotels to ask for payment in full up-front. Again, this is driven by it being a sellerís market. Where possible, pay by credit card as this is traceable and you normally have some recourse with the card company if things go wrong. Wires/bank transfers are the other most common method of payment, but take note of the country where payment is being sent. Obviously France is fine, as are many other countries in Western Europe since many European nationals own rental property in Cannes. But itís not advisable to send money to banks located in Eastern Europe, and certainly not anywhere outside of Europe.
6) Western Union? As a rule you should never pay for anything online via cash transfer services like Western Union. They are favoured by scammers because of the low ID requirements and lack of traceability at the receiving end. Use Western Union to send money to your friends and family overseas. Never use it to pay someone you don't know for anything whatsoever.
7) Official Partner? Don't rely on 'official partner' logos which may appear on a third-party website as these are easily copied. Companies can only be verified as official partners if they are listed on the festival (www.festival-cannes.org) or Market (www.marchedufilm.com) websites.
8) Unsolicited Email? Avoid lodging providers who send you unsolicited emails offering accommodation in Cannes. While not necessarily scammers, they are certainly spammers. You can do your bit to discourage the practice by not responding. If response rates become low enough, they might just give it up.
The official web site for the Marchť du Film outs the following companies as known to have been involved in scams in the past: Premier Destinations, Euro-Events (with hyphen), Global Living Group, The Ultimate Living Group, Riviera Network, Business Travel International, and Expo Travel Group. This list is not exhaustive and new scammers appear from time to time. The old mantra, if it's too good to be true, it probably is, remains the best protection.
By Benjamin Craig