Picture this: You finally get your friends to agree on a group trip and put down the payment for the perfect villa. Then, when you get to the destination, you discover the villa doesn’t exist.

That’s exactly what happened to Alix Earle, a TikToker with 5.3 million followers. She and her friends had plans for a villa stay in Positano, part of the adored Amalfi Coast.

What was supposed to be a fabulous getaway turned into something that could have gone left.

Stranded With No Place To Go

On the list of travel nightmares, this scenario has to rank pretty high.

In a TikTok video, Earle said, “We’re stranded in Italy, the house we were supposed to stay in doesn’t exist. Our car service canceled, [and] it’s midnight.”

When someone asked where she booked the house, Earle said she did it through Booking.com. Several others claimed to have also been scammed by the same company.

However, in response to the incident, Booking.com issued the following statement:

“Upon investigation, we can now confirm that this fake villa listing was not booked via Booking.com, but instead found on a fake copycat website. Since confirming this was not a legitimate Booking.com URL, we have subsequently been successful in requesting the website to be taken down. To ensure travel is legitimately and securely being booked through our platform, we recommend using the official Booking.com app. Should travelers ever have questions about a booking or need support of any kind, our customer service team is available 24/7.” 

Help Was Offered in Different Ways

Luckily, people stepped up to assist the young woman and her friends.

Airbnb jumped into the comment section to say, “Babes, we got you. Our people are calling you now.”

One user said, “I have a driver in Positano that can help you out. Also I have a travel agent based in Florence that’s awesome. Please let me know if you need my help.”

People tagged various travel agencies in the comment section and even offered their own homes in other parts of Italy, like Florence, Rome, and Sorrento.

Yahoo! News reported that the group “eventually found a tiny hotel room to share.”

Others Wouldn’t Be So Fortunate

Earle, at least in her videos, seemed to take everything in stride.

But let’s be honest, the average person would have been upset. Plus, they likely wouldn’t have the advantage of people offering assistance online.

For women especially, there’s danger in navigating a place where the language, culture and customs are foreign to them.

The Federal Trade Commission urges people to be on the alert for rental scams of all kinds. Some signs of a possible vacation rental scam are:

  • The person you are renting a property from doesn’t want to meet you in person (and doesn’t suggest a stand-in to give you the keys and greet you).
  • They request atypical payment methods like CashApp, certified checks, gift cards or cryptocurrency.
  • They pay people to write glowing but fake reviews about the property, making you more inclined to book.
  • They are pushy about getting you to commit.
  • They are an unreliable communicator.