Holiday rental fraud exposed

Holiday scammers arrested

Holiday scammers arrested.

A multi-force operation has arrested nine fraudsters for advertising false holiday rental adverts.

On March 19, an international operation involving Europol, Romanian Police, and the Spanish National Police culminated in the arrest of nine fraudsters for creating false holiday rental adverts.

Sophisticated scheme uncovered

Authorities performed 22 house searches in Sibiu and Valcea in Romania, uncovering the hub of an elaborate scam network with operations extending to Spain.

This sting operation led to the confiscation of over €174,000 and RON 41,000 (official currency of Romania) in cash, 55 g of gold, and a trove of electronic gadgets including 135 mobile phones, 29 laptops, 5 tablets, 23 memory sticks, and 326 SIM cards.

Professional criminals with a global reach

This wasn’t just a band of rogue individuals. The network was a well-organised group split into three specialised teams: leadership, advertisement posting on legitimate and fake sites, and a crew for recruiting money mules to clean their illegal gains.

Victims, primarily from Spain, were duped into paying between €200 and €10,000 for non-existent holiday rentals, cars, and electronics.

Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre provided crucial analytical support, enabling the coordination between Romanian and Spanish investigators.

This collaborative effort was essential for the ‘preparation and execution of the final phase of the investigation,’ as facilitated by the Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce at Europol’s headquarters. On the day of action, a Europol analyst was present in Romania to aid the operation.

Preventing holiday disasters

The scam, affecting potentially over a thousand individuals, involved not just fake adverts but also Business Email Compromise attacks, misleading victims into transferring money directly to the scammers. The total profits from their fraudulent activities are believed to run into millions of euros.

To combat this, Europol has released a comprehensive guide titled ‘Protect yourself from holiday and ticket fraud’, aimed at educating the public on avoiding such scams.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.