A BRITISH family of seven say they were left stranded in Spain after being conned out of £750 for a villa that didn’t exist.
Sheeba Gharda booked a last minute holiday through a Facebook advert and received confirmation from the owner, who claimed to be called Christina Lori.
Her father-in-law is said to have made a payment of £750 three days before they were due to fly but arrived to see no sign of the accommodation.
The family, from Chelmsford, Essex say they then frantically tried to contact the person purporting to be the owner but soon realised the Facebook account had been deactivated and all their calls were ignored.
Sheeba was forced to shell out an additional £600 for another villa in Malaga, Spain so she and children Mouris, five, and Aydin, two, and four other relatives, had somewhere to stay.
Sheeba said: “When we turned up at the address and realisation sunk in we were all devastated, our family holiday was ruined.
“Originally we couldn’t locate the address we had been given, and when we eventually did a different villa stood in its place.
“I was in regular contact with the person I booked the villa through, we discussed the general details and everything seemed professional and above board.
“She even sent me a picture of the street next to the villa the day before we flew out, and there was a selection of images of the villa online.
“But when we realised it was a scam we were all devastated, we were stranded with three children in a foreign county, it was a nightmare.”
Sheeba saw an advert for the villa, El Caprichio, on a Facebook group and made a last minute booking for a seven-night stay beginning on August 12.
She added: “”We waited until after midday, but we still had no response and so decided to book the apartment where we had stayed the night before for the remainder of the holiday.
“It cost us an additional 660 euros, but after everything we had been through we were just grateful for a place to stay.
“On the Tuesday, I went with my father-in-law to the Villa El Caprichio to find out who was living there.
“We found that it was a Spanish family from Madrid who owned the villa as their holiday home, they were shocked and appalled to hear that the location was being used as part of a scam.”
Sheeba and her family went to Marbella Police Station where they reported what had happened.
Since returning home, Sheeba has also submitted full details to Action Fraud Police UK to prevent other families from falling victim to the scam.
She added: “After posting about it online I discovered a number of families in Essex and Surrey that had also been victims to the scam.
“But it’s been really frustrating as nothing seems to have been done so far, and of course we haven’t been given a refund.
“So far we haven’t received any help from the police, I understand that this is a common occurrence and that the police are very busy, but we can’t let people get away with this.”