villa montefalconi tuscany

James Villas

Holiday Scams – How To Avoid Them!


With millions of pounds being lost every year to holiday fraudsters and passengers being stranded with nowhere to stay, we explore top tips for avoiding scams and the importance of booking safe on your next villa holiday.

Holidaymakers are spending an increasing amount of time researching, planning and booking their getaways. With modern day living so jam-packed with work, family and social lives, the time we do get to spend away on holiday is precious. So is it any wonder we take getting it just right so seriously?

Despite this, many people are being left horribly disappointed as they are targeted by fraudsters pretending to sell villa holidays. One in three victims falling for falsely advertised holidays think they are booking holiday villas or apartments.

Police reports say fraudsters stole £7.2 million from almost 6,000 unsuspecting holidaymakers and other travellers in 2016. It reminds us very much of what happened to Sean Fletcher.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Villa Nerja, Andalucia

Good Morning Britain presenter Sean Fletcher shares his story.

Sean Fletcher

Sean booked a villa to Italy’s Amalfi Coast for six people after finding the property through a trusted travel website.

Speaking about his experience on the breakfast show he co-presents, Sean said, “I clicked on a link to send a message to the owner of the villa – nothing unusual so far – and I got a message back from the person I thought was the villa owner.”

“We exchanged emails over the course of a few weeks with nothing appearing out of the ordinary.”

Sean then transferred nearly £3,500 to a bank account to pay for the accommodation – only to discover later that he had in fact transferred the money to a criminal posing as the property’s villa manager. The real owner’s email account had been hacked, allowing the criminal to intercept requests to book the property and take the payment. When Sean spoke to the genuine villa owner he discovered they had no reservation for his party, or indeed any idea who he was.

“My booking and money had gone. It was a nightmare. I’m devastated. It was a huge amount of money. I’m also angry because that money has gone to a criminal.” — Sean Fletcher

“They sent me a contract and it was like any other contract I’ve signed before for this sort of thing. The criminals signed it, I’ve signed it, it’s worth thousands of pounds to me – it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.”

booking a holiday online

There was very little Sean could do get his money back, as the booking had been made through the third party website.

“If you do find yourself in this situation, in my experience, you are on your own”, he said.

“I don’t know that I could have done anything differently apart from to have gone to the property, and knocked on the door and said “is this your property and will I be renting it?”

One in three victims falling for falsely advertised holidays think they are booking holiday villas or apartments.

Others like Sean who are tricked into believing they have made a genuine booking even get as far as arriving in their chosen destinations, only to discover their accommodation hasn’t been booked, their money is lost, and they are stranded abroad.

After many other victims came forward following the airing of Sean’s story with their own experiences of booking a fake holiday, Sean began an investigation and discovered the man posing as the villa manager, in fact lived in Spain. The Spanish police are investigating, but Sean is still out of pocket.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Villa Patrizia, Tuscany

When we heard about Sean’s awful experience we decided to get in touch with him to see if we could help. We arranged a holiday for Sean and his family to a villa in Italy, and we were so pleased they had a thoroughly enjoyable time.

Sean’s experience shows how important it is to be sure you are booking with a reputable company, like James Villas. We have an established relationship with all of our villa owners – we visit the properties in person and handpick them to ensure they meet the meticulous standards that we demand for our customers.

James Villa Tips How To Travel In Confidence

• Booking a package where accommodation and flights are organised together, and where the company has ABTA and ATOL bonding, offers the best form of financial holiday protection. That way if there is a problem with either your flights or your accommodation, your whole package is protected together, rather than just one element.
• Avoid bank transfers to individuals and instead travel with a reputable company.
• Be aware that when booking through third party websites, establishing who is responsible for any issues can be more difficult.
• Take out adequate travel insurance from the day you book your holiday, not just before you travel. If anything goes wrong in the run up, you won’t be protected if your cover hasn’t already started.
• Make sure the company has Travel Advisers or Reps available to help with any problems while abroad.

What do ABTA & ATOL really mean?

Most people know the importance of looking out for ABTA and ATOL logos when booking a holiday, but how exactly does this protect you and your travel arrangements?

ABTA – When a travel company is a member of ABTA they have agreed to comply with the ABTA code of conduct, ensuring excellent quality service from the point of booking all the way through to returning home. In the unlikely event that the company you are travelling with does go bust, ABTA will provide a quick process to its member’s customer, allowing you to continue your holiday or get your money back.

ATOL stands for Air Travel Organiser’s Licence, which all travel companies that sell holidays and flights are legally obliged to hold. Holidaymakers that have booked with an ATOL bonded operator are protected financially should a company cease trading. It protects against getting stranded abroad or losing the money invested in your holiday.

Did you know?

Most travel insurance policies won’t cover you in the event that the company goes out of business. That’s why travelling with an ABTA and ATOL bonded operator is so important.

Don’t let fraudsters destroy your holiday dreams, check you are booking your villa holidays with a member of ABTA and ATOL like James Villa Holidays.

Danielle Cheney

Danielle Cheney is a Marketing Communications Manager at James Villa Holidays.

I’ve been told that 3 ways to describe me are; witty, stylish and a lover of a good...

See all articles by Danielle Cheney

See all articles by Danielle Cheney

Related articles