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Family Arrive in Spain to Find Villa They Had Booked Does Not Exist

A family excited to go on their first holiday in over a decade were the victims of a fake villa scam when they arrived in Spain to find the property didn’t even exist. Neil Bray, 42, was promised a four-bed villa with a swimming pool, sauna, jacuzzi and plenty of outdoor space listed for just €1,800 on a Spain holiday rentals group. It was the perfect fit for him and his family of six who were looking to rent a villa in Alicante, Spain, for two weeks during the summer holidays in July 2023. The dad-of-four reached out to the advertiser and even had a phone call to discuss dates and availability. After being satisfied with the response, Neil transferred over €180 via TransferGo as a deposit – and were told they’d pay the rest on arrival.

They family spent £1,800 on plane tickets from Gatwick to Alicante. Then Neil, his wife Hannah, 38, a support worker, and their four children – Nikolas, 17, Felicity, 15, Leyton, nine, and Bella, eight – were all ready to set off on their summer holiday on July 24. Neil had been told they would be picked up when they arrived in Alicante but on arrival nobody was there to collect them. The desperate dad tried calling, texting and emailing the company but there was no reply and he quickly realised he had been scammed. After finding alternative accommodation the family had to fork out €2,800 for a new villa and €125 on travel – with a further €325 spent on a hire car.

Neil Bray, a bank manager, from Bexhill, East Sussex, said: “The villa looked amazing – it had a swimming pool, sauna, jacuzzi and it was large. “It was a wonderful four-bed property with plenty of space. I spoke to the guy around a week before and I was saying how much we were looking forward to going on holiday. “He was suggesting places to eat and drink and telling me how nice the weather was out there. When we landed in Alicante, we were told we would be picked up on arrival.

“But we got there, and nobody was there to pick us up. At that point, we were in an absolute panic. I had several means of contact with him, but they were all dead.” Neil made the booking in March 2023 when he came across an advertisement for a villa in Alicante on a Facebook page for Spanish holiday villas. He said: “We booked the villa for 11 nights and then my sister booked a further two weeks from August 4. I had a phone call with him, as he called me to ask if we were interested – saying they had a lot of interest. “I sent him over €180 and as soon as we secured the villa, we booked the flights which cost £1,800 for six of us.”

“We arrived at the airport expecting to be met, then when we tried to contact on all the different methods – Facebook, WhatsApp, email, call and text – everything was dead. “We found out very quickly that the villa was for sale and that this person lifted the photos from a for sale page. We had transfers, car hire and the villa in this deal – costing €1,800. “We spent the first six hours stranded in the airport whilst we frantically found a villa that set us back €2,800, a taxi was €125 and car hire was €325.”