TEN people have been arrested for ripping off 300 tourists to the tune of €4 million in a series of accommodation and credit card scams.
Five of the arrests took place in Madrid, two in Guipuzcoa, two in Malaga and one in Sevilla and a further 20 more suspects are under investigation.
Guardia Civil and Ertzaintza (the Basque Police Force) have been jointly investigating highly organised scams against tourists since 2018, under the codename Operation Cheat-stay.
The suspects are facing charges including aggravated scamming, participation in the activities of an organised crime group, money laundering, identity theft and fraud.
According to reports, the crime group collected €4 million through its fraudulent activities. Its main income streams were selling fake tourist accommodation, credit card cloning and the selling of fake travel packages.
Police launched the operation after spotting that scams on the Cadiz coast matched patterns of tourism fraud seen nationwide.
Officers have now revealed that the crimes were all linked to the same criminal organisation.
They say that a highly experienced hacker led the organisation, setting up fake companies and fraudulent web pages to hook over 300 unfortunate prospective holidaymakers.
Law enforcement authorities believe the hacker to be one of the most active fraudsters currently operating in Spain.
In order to move the enormous capital the organisation was generating, they created fake job portals to exploit vulnerable people who they cherry picked to act as mules.
The organisation made bank accounts in the workers names in order to launder the illegal proceeds.