Brit expats and holidaymakers scammed by rental property fraudsters

Published:  1 May at 6 PM
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British tourists and would-be expats have been scammed out of thousands when renting villas online.

It’s not known exactly how many British visitors to Spain have been affected by the cleverly constituted rental property scams, but it’s the third year the crooks have stolen large amounts of deposit money from their victims. The bogus travel company trades as Dream Villas Spain, illegally uploading genuine rental properties from other legitimate sites and using them on their own website in order to dupe renters into sending hefty deposits. This year, the gang centred on wealthy holidaymakers, with one well-known rugby football star losing €50,000 on a luxury Mallorca villa rental and a UK TV star being taken for €5,000 on a seven bedroomed Mallorcan villa.

The scams came as no surprise to one local English language newspaper which had exposed a number of fake holiday rental websites over the past two seasons, discovering dozens of renters scammed out of millions of euros via similar booking sites. It’s likely that would-be expat Brits have been affected whilst visiting various Spanish retirement hubs in order to decide where to live after they leave the UK, as it’s common for British retirees to check out several Spanish destinations before finding their forever homes.

One family who’d recently booked a villa through Dream Villas Spain were shocked to find exactly the same property advertised as available on another website shortly after they’d sent a deposit of €1,300. After calling the so-called rental company and getting no reply, they realised their cash was gone, along with their planned June holiday.

For those attempting to book a Spanish villa in advance online without getting scammed, the first move is to check the date the company was formed and speak to a real person. Check any reviews, ask specific questions and check out the answers, request a full address and do a Google search on the property, check the booking and payment process is secure and don’t go to personal websites or use email addresses. If you even have the smallest suspicion something’s not quite right – dump it, however tempting it might seem!
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