A family who were excited to enjoy their first holiday after 11 years without one were horrified when it turns out their villa didn’t exist.
The family fell victim to a scam leaving them in a difficult situation in Spain.
Neil Bray, 42, rented the villa, allegedly in Alicante, Spain, for his family of six for two weeks in July this year. He had picked a great looking spot with a pool, sauna, jacuzzi and garden for just €1,800 (£1,542), reports WalesOnline.
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The dad claims he found the villa on a Spain holiday rentals group and then contacted the advertiser and had a phone call to discuss dates and availability. He was apparently happy with the process and so transferred a €180 (£154) over.
He planned to spend the rest on arrival at the villa and the family spent £1,800 on plane tickets from Gatwick to Alicante.
Neil, wife Hannah, 38, and their four children Nikolas, 17, Felicity, 15, Leyton, nine, and Bella, eight set off on their trip on July 24.
He was told that the family would be picked up from the airport to the villa. But, they realised disaster had struck when nobody was there to collect them – and nobody answered their frantic calls, texts and emails.
Dad-of-four Neil realised he’s been scammed and searched for a new place to stay. They spent €2,800 (£2,400) for a new villa and €125 (£107) on travel – with a further €325 (£278) 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."
He had found the villa on a Facebook group in March.
Neil added: "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."
They hadn’t been away for a whopping 11 years and so were very excited to head out.
Neil said: "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 while we frantically found a villa that set us back €2,800, a taxi was €125 and car hire was €325."
Thankfully, they found another place to stay.
However, it was a lot of money to lose – both the deposit and the extra cost of the new villa.
He said: "For us, it wasn’t that he scammed us for lots of money – the deposit was €180. It was the stress and worry of arriving having nothing and spending an additional €1,500 to just be able to stay somewhere.
"This ate into a lot of our spending money, and we had to resort to a fairly low-key holiday. I feel so stupid, it has affected my well-being and mental health – I feel so ridiculous. We have just been focusing on making the most of the trip for the children."
It’s always best to book through an official travel site or agent. That way you have some recourse to get your money back if the listing isn’t legit.
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