Spanish Police is warning of a worrying increase in fraud in holiday lettings via the Internet and new police reports are coming in every day.
How the scam is being performed
The scammers are advertising vacant holiday homes on the Internet, often with great views and an at attractive prices – but not so cheap that it arouses some suspicion. It’s just that they have nothing to let. The pictures have been stolen from the Internet – sometimes from ads that the real owners have published.
The scammers are usually avoiding Airbnb, HomeAway and similar portals that use their own payment services, but sometimes they can post links to such sites in order to seem more credible. On the other hand they are often seen on some famous Spanish websites such as Fotocasa Idealista, Enalquiler and Milanuncios.
Those interested in renting get in contact with the fake landlords via email or phone. If one is interested in seeing the property first, it is usually not possible because it is rented. They will attempt to get the client to sign a contract as soon as possible because the demand for the property is so high.
The payment has been made in advance by transfer to a Spanish bank account that has been created through false identification documents. The tenant will receive a professionally designed contract and then transferres a deposit or full rental amount to the scammers.
Once the money has been transferred there is nobody answering either by phone or e-mail anymore. The scammers ususally don’t live in Spain, but in eastern Europe or in Africa and are using a Spanish intermediary who receives a commission on the amount.
Getting your money back
It is only when the tenants arrive come to their holiday home that they discover they have been duped and they are left with no place to stay. There are people from almost the entire world who have been cheated in this way and the chances of getting money back almost nonexistent, according to the police.
The police has a special section for these crimes. It’s Guardia Civil’s department of technology crimes “Grupo de Delitos Telemáticos, Unidad Central Operative, Guardia Civil” who works with this type of online crime. The origin goes back to 1996 when the group “Grupo de Delitos Informáticos (GDI)” was established to handle the few complaints that back then was called “cybercrime”.
The good work that they have been performing and the exponential growth of Internet users led to an expansion and a transformation to the existing group. They are members of and participate actively in Interpol’s groups in Europe and Latin America in the international community for the G8 Cybercrime and Europol. They also have technology departments in all the Spanish provinces.