CYBER CONMEN HIT COSTA TOURISTS
Genuine villa rentals cloned on rogue website
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.