THE GUARDIA CIVIL in Valencia has brought down a group of scammers offering holiday home rentals in Spain to domestic and United Kingdom customers.

Two people have been arrested and a further person is being identified, with an additional three gang members believed to be living abroad.

The total fraud amounted to €12,014 with the group facing seven counts of fraud and money laundering.

Operation ‘Rent-A-Fake’ began a year ago after an injured party complained that he was defrauded over a holiday home rental.

The gang copied genuine adverts from well-known online holiday home rental platforms targeting villas in Alicante and Cadiz provinces.

The copied listings appeared on websites created themselves with listings offering much lower prices.

They also copied company information from other sites to lure victims in with the veneer of honesty and said that prices were lower because they charged commissions, allowing victims to deposit payments into bank accounts operated by hem.

Once the payment was made by a victim, they received an email confirming the reservation, although when they tried to have contact again, they got no reply.

The gang all had different functions including a ‘mule’ who provided his information to create a bank account in exchange for a payment.

Another person recruited the mules to open accounts from which money was transferred to offshore accounts which made it difficult to trace.

A member received all the money from United Kingdom residents who were defrauded and another person was responsible for faking a range of documents.

A Valencia court is handling the case with the Guardia Civil warning potential clients to steer clear of cut-price online rentals and only use well-established platforms, and don’t leave them to go to another site to make a payment.

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