More than 2,000 British holidaymakers hit by online rental scam

Action Fraud letter to victim reveals scale of problem

LAST UPDATED: 31 Aug, 2017 @ 10:50
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MORE than 2,000 British holidaymakers have been victims of an online holiday rental scam, it has been revealed.

Despite countless stories in the media, a letter seen by the Olive Press from UK’s Action Fraud, confirms that the number is rising, despite the conviction of 30 fraudsters.

SCAMS: Brits have been hit by slew of fraudulent sites

According to the fraud investigation team, the number of fake websites is growing and it is very difficult to police.

In the letter, sent to a victim, a detective, writes: “The crime that you have reported is one of now over 2000 such reports we have received.”

He added: “In most cases, by the time we are notified of the crime the funds that you have transferred will have already been transferred to other accounts and lost to withdrawals.”

The detective confirmed that the shakedown is usually run by foreign criminals who travel to the UK to open ‘several hundred’ bank accounts, many of them within London.

Email addresses, IP addresses and telephone numbers are all either outside the UK or can’t be traced.

As soon as one account is uncovered, the gang close it down and open another, with the Metropolitan Police now investigating under Operation Arad.

However, despite convicting 30 fraudsters, and jailing some for up to five years, an Action Fraud spokesperson admits the scale of the fraud is causing problems.

“Unfortunately, because of the huge resource implication, it is not possible to investigate individual offences and update individual victims,” the letter says.

Investigating officers have linked the offences to emails using the names Lucy or Amy.

The Olive Press has exposed up to a dozen fake websites marketing properties around Mallorca and the Spanish mainland.

Many of the sites have now been shut down, after we appealed to Google or their web hosts.

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  1. In time, Blockchain based escrow systems could stop this type of fraud. The payment itself is the problem – bank transfers to fake “owners” and the like. Buyer protection or seller protection just doesn’t work in so many cases. Companies like PayPal sell nothing; they are only middlemen, and technologies like blockchain could potentially make them redundant. With blockchain/escrow, both parties have to be satisfied before payments/debits are made. It certainly has potential and clearly something has to change to combat such fraud.

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