Summer holiday shenanigans

MajorcaI hope everyone is enjoying this heatwave. I am, apart from when I’m too sweaty and the kids are playing up and then I’m a tired, hot, narky mess. We spend all year wishing for weather like this and then when it arrives it can be a bit too bloody hot, can’t it?

Anyway, we’ve just got back from a lovely week in Majorca. I initially booked the villa back in December, seduced by the beautiful photos on the local travel agent’s website. We were going away with friends of ours and their kids, and the villa looked stunning – it had loads of space for us all, a great pool, was right by the beach and a stone’s throw from some little restaurants, cafes and a handy supermarket. It looked pretty damn perfect.

I had a flurry of emails with the villa’s agent, who waxed lyrical about the local area and reassured me we’d be able to have two cots and highchairs for the smalls. He also said he’d arrange free airport transfers – how nice, I thought.

We agreed with our friends that we’d book the villa and I paid via bank transfer and signed the booking contract. The agent offered us 10% discount if we paid upfront – a good saving overall.

Six months rolled around and I thought I’d check out the website again and remind myself of what our lovely villa looked like. The website was down. I tried it again later – still down. By then I was feeling pretty uneasy and so googled the name of the holiday company I’d booked with. To my horror, it was listed on Trip Advisor as a scam, with victims warning others not to part with any cash to this company.

I immediately reported it to my bank and to Action Fraud (the Police arm which deals with fraud cases) but there was nothing that could be done as I’d paid via bank transfer, directly into the fraudster’s account. Fraudsters monitor their bank accounts constantly and as soon as money is paid in, they drain it out and don’t use it again.

Sadly, this type of holiday booking crime is hugely on the increase, so here are some top tips which will hopefully prevent you from suffering the same fate.

  1. Pay by credit card – you get more protection as the credit card company has equal responsibility with the seller if there’s a problem with what you’ve bought, or the company you’ve bought them from fails.
  2. Book holidays via reputable sites, through their booking/payment system – e.g. booking.com or Airbnb.
  3. If an agent says he will do you a deal if you pay directly into their bank account, don’t do it. It might be genuine, but it’s not worth the risk and you will have no comeback if it’s a scam
  4. If booking through a site you’ve never heard of, research them thoroughly online and also check to see if they have an address – fraudulent sites often don’t
  5. Likewise, check for a phone number and speak to the agent – most fraudsters won’t want to talk on the phone
  6. Are there reviews of the villa online? A lack of reviews, coupled with it being new to the market, can be a bad sign
  7. Does it seem too good to be true? If the villa is listed on other sites, but you’re offered it for a much lower price, this should be a red flag

More tips here, courtesy of ABTA

In the end, we chalked this down to experience, found a new villa and still had a great holiday. We ended up staying here – a gorgeous traditional style finca in the countryside in Campos, in the south of Majorca. The owner, Toni, was amazingly helpful and even prepared a delicious lunch for us when we arrived. I can highly recommend this place if you want to switch off for a week and still be within easy reach of the airport and local sandy beaches. Happy summer holidays everyone!

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