When Angus Kennedy landed in Mallorca in 2019, he was looking forward to being whisked away to his dream holiday villa.
But he, his wife at the time and their five children experienced a terrible shock – the family fell victim to a complex scam.
The mansion, which Angus spent close to three grand on, was never listed as a vacation rental. Instead, pictures of it were stolen and shared on a fake vacation company’s website.
As the reality of the family’s plight became clear, it became clear that the Spanish Easter holiday they had envisioned had turned into one hell of a vacation as they were now stranded thousands of miles from home.
Describing the agonizing moment in new Channel 5 documentary Holiday Scams: Don’t Get Caught Out, Angus recalled: “[The kids] were not happy then. It was terrible.
He adds: “It looked brilliant. It had everything one would normally have such as deposits, advice on this, as well as arrivals and special packages. It was all there.”
“Everything you would expect from any of these sites. And it was very convincing. They asked for a deposit via bank transfer almost immediately.”
Angus, who is in his mid-50s, spent £2,600 to stay in the stunning seven-bedroom villa for a week – £50 per person per night.
The villa was advertised as having a swimming pool and enough space for the family to relax and enjoy their stay.
But the website Angus used to pay for his holiday – dreamvillasspain.com – was later found to be fake, although it looked legitimate.
Though Angus initially thought the deal looked too good to be true, he failed to make some key checks, admitting, “I’ve been so busy.”
“You know when you’re very busy and just need your vacation and can’t wait to go. It was just the time of year – there was so much going on.”
The package also said it included an airport pick up, which was never the case.
You know when you are very busy and just need the vacation and can’t wait to go there. It was just the time of year – there was so much going on
“We got through customs and all the other people were picked up with the signs,” he says.
“We were expecting to see a sign for Kennedy or something. Nothing.”
Determined not to spoil the trip, Angus went in search of the mansion.
He explains: “Luckily, I pulled out my phone, took a picture of this villa and thought, ‘We’re going on vacation’.”
“I walked around every single cab driver and said, ‘Here’s the house. Do you recognize this address?’ Then, about 14 minutes later, I met a taxi driver who said, ‘I know this house. I took someone there last week.’”
When the family arrived at the villa they looked exactly like the photo and they knocked on the door.
“Someone opens the door and it’s amazing,” Angus recalls.
“And there was this moment where he didn’t say anything, I didn’t say anything and I just said, ‘We’re here on vacation.’
“He was about to close the door, but luckily I got the photo and asked, ‘Is this your house?’ and he just looked and said, ‘You better come in.’”
Once inside, the owner explained that he was a German citizen – and it wasn’t the first time people had shown up at his home expecting to stay there.
Luckily for the family, the owner of the property took pity on them and showed them some much-needed kindness.
Angus says: “He said, ‘Why don’t you stay the night, we’ll put you up for the night and have some dinner. And we’ll have a glass of wine together and we’ve had the most beautiful evening we’ve ever had.’ Oh well. It was so strange.”
For the remainder of their stay in Mallorca, the family had to find an additional £2,000 to rent an apartment for a week.
After a team of experts investigated the travel agency’s address, they found that their so-called headquarters was off a highway on a deserted road.
Angus said: “It was a vacation from hell. This is an international scam. But the Mallorcans were nice, I’ve never had so many nice offers.”
“Why isn’t the government shutting down these websites? These crooks will get away with it for years.”
Hoping to get his money back and some justice, Angus filed several complaints.
He reported the case to his bank, insurance company and authorities in Spain, but his efforts proved futile.
He now believes he has no chance of ever getting his money back.
Scams are on the rise
Every year Brits spend billions of pounds on holidays abroad – enticing scammers with holiday scams.
From 2021-2022, Action Fraud received reports of more than 2,244 travel-related scams – and the numbers continue to rise as scammers target Brits desperate for a holiday.
According to the report, victims end up losing an average of £1,868.
There are several ways holidaymakers can protect themselves from becoming victims.
One is to make sure they are not pressured by an agent to make bookings.
Carefully examining a website’s address can also help determine if it’s a scam.
These often copy the websites of reputable sites but use tricks like removing a letter from the address.
Resisting the temptation to click on emails promising vacation deals that seem too good to be true and ignoring social media offers from unverified organizations can also protect you from scams.
Holiday Scams: Don’t Get Caught Out airs tonight on Channel 5.