Holiday rental fraud is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the UK, with holidaymakers regularly finding themselves out of pocket thanks to unscrupulous scammers – and recently, one family was hit particularly hard.
During the 2019 Easter break, Angus Kennedy and his family lost a total of almost £5,000 after booking a luxury villa in Majorca which never materialised.
Lured in by the attractive and authentic-looking ‘Dream Villas Spain’ website – which claimed to rent out 780 properties – father of five Angus paid the advertised price of £2,600 after seeing photos of the beautiful seven-bedroom villa in Palma. But when the family arrived at the property, the legitimate owner had no knowledge of their booking, and insisted he had never rented his home out.
After investigating further, Mr. Kennedy realised the truth – scammers had taken photos of the property and uploaded them to their website, despite having no connection to it. The website was neither listed as a member of ABTA (the Association of British Travel Agents) or of I-PRAC (the International Property Rental Approval Certification), and had supplied a fake company registration number and fake contact details, meaning there was no way of tracing them or the money they had stolen. Left with nowhere to stay, Angus had no choice had to pay another £2,000 for alternative accommodation.
Angus said: “I had lost over £5000, and our family holiday was totally ruined. It wasn’t a holiday – it was a test of morals, determination and filling out police reports. It wasn’t a break; it was just living somewhere else while surviving without the comforts of home.
“I loved Majorca and its wonderful people, but nothing could really make up for the fact that even though people were so nice, we had lost a large amount of money and the holiday had been ruined.”
The growing risk of holiday rental fraud
With incidents of holiday rental fraud on the rise, it is important to recognise the risks and protect yourself wherever possible. In 2018 alone, Action Fraud reported that a total of 5,000 people were conned out of an incredible £7 million (an increase on the £6.7 million lost in 2017). This averaged at £1,380 lost per person, with over 50% of those scammed relating to airline tickets and 25% related to holiday accommodation.
The report also showed a significant increase in holiday fraud cases during the summer months, and that these cases were being reported in October – highlighting that scammers target the peak holiday periods when availability is scarce, and people are less inclined to be vigilant when it comes to an offer that seems too good to be true.
While the loss of money and the dream of a nice break is the most obvious impact of these types of holiday booking scams, their effects can run deeper. Almost half of those surveyed said they endured a significant impact to their health or financial well-being.
Angus continued: “As a result of this scam we had no money left, and we had to spend all of our savings on booking a second villa. We even had to cancel our hire car right away in order to get some money back.
“Not only that but we were vulnerable out there with our young children and our cases. We literally ended up waiting on the wall of villas that, although we had paid for, were in fact not even ours to enjoy – we had nowhere to go.
“When we realised we had been scammed my mind went racing. I thought about my insurance, who I could contact – I even contacted the fraud department at my bank. But the damage had been done. I was told because of how sophisticated the fraudsters were in making sure I made the payment via transfer, I was not entitled to any support or compensation. Banks and governments need to be more aware of the impact of holiday scams.
“That’s why I was really encouraged to learn of I-PRAC, particularly as I am so passionate about ensuring this never happens to another family. I feel that our case and the publicity around it – as devastating an experience as it was – was needed in order to raise awareness of the issue and help innocent families like mine avoid holiday rental scams in the future.
“I will never accept that there are young children arriving at airports across the world, to then be told there is no holiday.”
A word from I-PRAC
Although the increase in booking scams makes this a worrying time for the holiday rental industry, it’s important to know that companies like I-PRAC are doing everything we can to ensure you and your family are protected from fraudsters.
Chris Maughan, Founder and CEO of I-PRAC, commented : “Despicable acts of fraud on innocent families are becoming far too prevalent within the vacation rental industry. I myself have experienced first-hand the emotional toll and devastation this can cause individuals and families, so it’s imperative we act now on this issue. At I-PRAC, we’re prepared to lead the way for improved regulation and verification to ensure cases such as that of Angus and his family are stamped out.”
For further information on how to become an I-PRAC verified member and legitimate operator, and to join us in the fight against holiday rental fraud and the devastation it causes, visit our dedicated approval page.