Punters heading to Bunbury in south-western WA have been stung by a holiday accommodation scam, after they showed up on the doorstep of a family whose home was falsely advertised on a popular accommodation website.

As ABC News reports, the Gelmi family discovered that their home had been listed for rent on an unnamed website during the Groovin The Moo festival over the weekend, which attracted a sellout crowd of 20,000 people this year.

“We were just so shocked,” Kerry Gelmi told ABC News. At least two groups of people from Perth paid several hundred dollars to stay at the Gelmi’s four-bedroom home. “We had no idea up until that point that our house had been advertised,” said Ms Gelmi.

According to local police, once the hopeful punters paid for the lodging, the seller stopped responding to emails and calls. By the time police had been contacted, the ad disappeared from the site.

“It’s just such as invasion, we had no idea that people could do that – and so successfully,” Ms Gelmi said. The Gelmis said they began preparing for further arrivals in case there were more people caught up in the scam.

Ms Gelmi said the family offered the stranded punters accommodation, as they had nowhere else to go. “We got out air mattresses and swags and all that kind of thing, we just didn’t know what to do,” she said.

“They would have been angry and it’s not like there was anywhere else for them to stay, Bunbury was booked out.” Meanwhile, WA Consumer Protection south-west coordinator Debbie Butler has weighed in on the situation.

According to Ms Butler, this was simply a variation on previous rental and ticketing scams. “It used to be ticket scalping and now it’s accommodation scalping,” she told ABC News.

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Ms Bulter said that it’s important for consumers to do their homework and remain vigilant about potential scams when booking accommodation online. “Try and verify they are who they say they are, and that the property actually exists and that it’s available,” she said.

According to police, it’s often difficult to catch scammers operating overseas. “The problem is once it’s only via email, it could be coming from the middle of Nigeria,” said Bunbury police Sergeant Laurie Seton.

“The only lead we have in this case is the bank account details.” Any Groovin The Moo Bunbury punters who may have been caught out in the scam or any others are being urged to report the incident to police, and to seek a refund from the bank if paying by credit card.