Family scammed out of £2,300 villa rental after emails intercepted

Emma Woollacott
The City Palma de Majorca from a bird's eye view
The City Palma de Majorca from a bird's eye view

A hairdresser from Oxfordshire has become the latest victim of a holidayscam, arriving in Spain to discover that her villa hadn't been paid for.

Jayne Morris, 50, of Kidlington, had booked a four-bedroom villa in Majorca for herself and six members of her family through

See also: How to spot a holiday booking scam

See also: The three secret holiday scams that will catch you out

But when the group arrived, they were met by the villa owner who said that their £2,708 payment hadn't been received.

"I thought there had to be a mistake. I got onto HomeAway and they were absolutely useless," Jayne told the Sun.

"They didn't care. I spoke to my bank but they also couldn't help."

The family stayed in the villa for two days, but was then forced to move on to another one, at a cost of £3,900.

"It was the worst holiday I've ever been on. It spoilt the whole trip," says Jayne.

The family had fallen victim to an increasingly common scam, in which fraudsters intercept emails between villa owners and holidaymakers.

In this case, the scammers offered a 15% discount in return for paying up-front via overseas bank transfer website Transferwise - meaning that the family wasn't entitled to a refund.

They played their part very convincingly over a period of months, even replying to queries about towels and bedding, and allowing Jane to add her father to the guest list.

Such email interception scams have been becoming more common.

"Email payment fraud occurs when a fraudster hacks into the email communications between a client and a company," says Tess Henderson of Clutton Cox Solicitors.

"The scammer places malware into a computer which will lie dormant until it recognises specific keywords relating to a request for funds or deposit payment."

Unlike other types of holiday booking fraud, the email address used will be correct, making the scam hard to detect. The key sign, though, is the request for payment outside the standard payment system.

"Never pay directly into an private individual's bank account," warns ABTA. "Paying by direct bank transfer is like paying by cash – the money will not be traceable and is not refundable. Wherever possible, pay by credit card or a debit card."