THE POLICE Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has issued a warning over a holiday home scam in Donegal.
The public is being urged to be cautious when booking holiday rentals online as there has been a surge in people falling victim to scams on Facebook Marketplace.
The PSNI say victims have paid deposits of between £100 to £500 to stay at a property in Donegal but in reality they have been swindled.
The Donegal News spoke to a woman in April who fell victim to such a scam.
Helen Hancock believed she was renting a stunning house in Bunbeg for two weeks this summer and handed over a £250 deposit.
She came across the house on Facebook Marketplace and thought it was a great deal for £500 per week.
She got in touch with the advertiser who responded quickly and after a half hour conversation she believed all was above board.
She even shared the advertisement with her cousin who also lost £250 to the scam.
Helen, who is originally from outside Raphoe, but now lives in Northern Ireland, was not able to get her money back as she had paid the deposit through PayPal’s family and friends option.
At the time she warned others of how sincere and believable the advertiser was during her ordeal.
“He was so clever with his frequent correspondence and reassurance,” she said.
The PSNI has received twenty reports of scams like this to date but it is believed others may have fallen victim.
“The criminals, using a number of different names, have placed adverts on a Facebook Marketplace for a holiday home that victims have booked and paid deposits of between £100 to £500 for,” they warned.
“They believe they’re paying for a holiday rental in County Donegal but, in reality, they’ve been swindled. Once the victim has transferred the funds, the scammer blocks them on social media, preventing any further communication.
The result is the victim is left out of pocket and hopes of a dream getaway dashed.
“Police are also aware of a similar-type scam operating online with four reports made in relation to bogus holiday accommodation in Portrush.
Victims have paid deposits of between £100 and £200.
Similar to the Donegal scam, these victims hear nothing from the scammer once deposits are paid.
Again, they’ve been swindled and their hopes for a coastal break scuppered.
“Police are encouraging anyone who believes they’ve fallen victim to either of these scams, and have not reported it, to do so now.”
Chair of Scamwise NI Partnership, Police Service of Northern Ireland Superintendent Gerard Pollock is warning others not to be conned.
cost of living
“As the cost of living increases and more of us are holidaying at home, it’s understandable that people go in search of the best deal.
“However, what can appear as a bargain holiday on a social media platform or an online advert, is all too often the start of a scam, which will cost you hundreds of pounds and leave you without that getaway.” said Superintendent Pollock.
“It might sound obvious, but take some time to do your research on the company, or person you are booking with. Don’t rely on just one website or review.
“If it’s a fake there’s a good chance others will write about their experience and some basic internet research will find it.
“Look for the logo, check to see if the company is a member of Abta and, if you’re booking a flight, check to see it’s approved by Atol.”