The Guardia Civil in Solana de los Barros (Extremadura) have presented charges against a man for allegedly setting up an online booking scam.
The police began investigations this summer when false-holiday rentals on Internet came to light.
The Equipo de Policía Judicial de la Guardia Civil de Mérida soon discovered that an individual in Solana de los Barros had been using photos of a summer-rental property in Chipiona (Cádiz) as bait for the scam on social media and online, advertising pages.
In fact, the real owner of the property came across the photos of his home and saw that somebody was offering it as a holiday let without his consent.
It also came to light that several people from Badajoz, Sevilla and Cádiz had unwittingly contacted the fraudster to find out how much down payment they should make, which was between 200 and 600 euros.
Once the transfer was made then they heard nothing more from the accused. In fact, at least one couple turned up at the address only to find out first hand from the owner that he had had nothing to do with the booking, much less consented to renting his property out. The victims were left with the only options of searching around for alternative accommodation or heading back home.
As mentioned above, the police tracked the culprit down and charged him with five counts of fraud, although the police consider that other victims might come forward.
The Guardia Civil have issued the following advice:
- Don’t trust prices well below the normal going rate.
- Double check the offer via other sources, such as commentaries left by previous clients.
- Carry out the deal face-to-face or consult the land registry to verify that the person offering the dwelling is its real owner.
- Do not make any transfer unless you have physically seen the property first.
- If you do decide to transfer a deposit, make sure that it can be traced.
Editorial comment: obviously, if you’re making a reservation through an established real-estate agency, then the above points don’t apply. Furthermore, if you are making a holiday-rental reservation from outside Spain, you can’t physically carry out points three and four.