CY­BER CONMEN HIT COSTA TOURISTS

Gen­uine villa ren­tals cloned on rogue web­site

Costa Blanca News (South Edition) - - Front Page - [email protected]

By Jack Troughton FAKE villa rental com­pany Span­ish Ren­tals Hol­i­day Es­capes of­fers hol­i­day­mak­ers a dream break in Spain but peo­ple tempted to book via its rogue web­site face an ex­pen­sive sting.

Hun­dreds of vil­las ap­pear­ing on its elec­tronic pages have been stolen from gen­uine hol­i­day rental com­pa­nies – and wor­ried prop­erty own­ers have sounded the alarm on the Costa Blanca.

The home page of the web­site boasts: “Amaz­ing hol­i­day vil­las to rent in Spain, Ca­nary Is­lands, Balearic Is­lands, Costa Blanca, Costa del Sol.”

Span­ish Ren­tals Hol­i­day Es­capes (SRHE) claims it has 702 vil­las un­der man­age­ment with 118 rental homes on the Costa Blanca alone and 107 on the Costa del Sol. It even has a page called ‘book with con­fi­dence’, promis­ing clients are cov­ered for £15,000 and if they do find the villa of­fered cheaper else- where, stat­ing that SRHE will match the price and hand over a £100 voucher.

SRHE gives its ad­dress as Calle Ti­t­ul­cia 8, Madrid. Google maps re­veal it to be a res­i­den­tial house in a sub­ur­ban street close to the cap­i­tal’s Re­tiro Park.

The face­less conmen be­hind the scam also at­tempt to get their hands on vic­tims’ cash quickly, of­fer­ing hol­i­day­mak­ers a 10% dis­count for im­me­di­ately pay­ing a de­posit and free trans­fers from the air­port.

The re­sort of Jávea alone has 44 fraud­u­lent list­ings.

One owner took to so­cial me­dia to warn of the fraud and asked land­lords to check if their prop­erty has been cloned by vis­it­ing the www.spainrent hol­i­days.com – which leads di­rectly to the SRHE home­page – or just by en­ter­ing its full name into a search en­gine.

“They have copied all the in­for­ma­tion we have on the le­gal page at Spain-Hol­i­day.com,” said the own­ers, who have con­tacted po­lice. There are pho­tos and even some re­views.

“An English fam­ily made a book­ing with them, and even signed the con­tract, which is giv­ing the ad­dress and de­tails of our house but with bank de­tails of the fraud­ster.

“At the last minute be­fore trans­fer­ral of the money, they dou­ble-checked, found our num­ber and made a call to us. This was the way we got to know about it. How­ever, there might be some peo­ple out there who have paid for a hol­i­day some­where, and at ar­rival will find out it is a fraud.”

An­other owner, who rents out his Costa Blanca home in the sum­mer via Villa Plus, said: “This is a mas­sive scam. What they have done is cloned lots of vil­las whose own­ers ad­ver­tise on gen­uine web­sites.

“I went to see if mine was listed by SRHE and there it was. They had sim­ply taken every­thing from Villa Plus, given the house a new name and spiced up what was on of­fer and even in­cluded fake feed­back.”

Deb­bie De Laney, area man­ager for Villa Plus on the Costa Blanca, said the com­pany had fought to get fake ad­verts taken down but web­sites con­tin­ued to ap­pear.

“I don’t un­der­stand why the po­lice can’t act, there has to be a bank ac­count for peo­ple to pay money into and for the crooks to col­lect it – I thought they had the power to in­ter­vene," she said.

Nick Cooper, a Villa Plus di­rec­tor, has ap­peared on tele­vi­sion and ra­dio to high­light the trou­ble the scam can trig­ger – and said the com­pany had a web page ded­i­cated to mak­ing cus­tomers aware of the dan­ger at www.vil­laplus.com/book­safe.

He said: “There have been well over 100 fake web­sites falsely ad­ver­tis­ing vil­las since Au­gust 2016. For villa own­ers, apart from be­ing an­noy­ing, there is not a lot they can do and there is only a small chance that cus­tomers who have been scammed would turn up at their prop­erty. Villa Plus has been in­volved in try­ing to shut down these fake web­site’s ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns as swiftly as we can.”

It is es­ti­mated that in­ter­na­tion­ally tourists lose mil­lions of eu­ros to fake hol­i­day rental web­sites.

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