Victims become aware of fraud when they reach the tourist destination

The National Police recommends distrusting the “bargains” in vacation home rentals to enjoy a #SecureSecure

With the arrival of summer, specialized agents of the National Police reinforce cyber-patrols on the Internet to detect those summer offers of homes that, really, are a scam

§ In the last operation carried out, a network of scammers who have obtained more than 250,000 euros through the publication of false advertisements has been dismantled

§ The victims paid an amount as a reservation for their holiday destination and, in addition, they provided their IDs with which the scammers usurped their identity in order to register prepaid bank cards with which they also profited

§ At least 100 people have suffered this fraud, a number that could increase since many affected are only aware of the deception once they have appeared in the non-existent tourist destination

§ The National Police offers various tips to avoid becoming a victim of this type of scam, such as being wary of below-market rentals or advertisements that offer spectacular homes at very low prices

June 27, 2020.- National Police officers have broken up a network of scammers that operated throughout Spain and that supposedly would have obtained around € 250,000 using false vacation rental ads. Five people have been arrested in Alicante for crimes of integration into a criminal group, fraud and usurpation of marital status. They captured their victims through advertisements on real estate rental websites that turned out to be false. They obtained their benefits from the collection of reserve amounts, as well as registering prepaid bank cards using the documentation that they also requested to supplant the identities of the injured.

The investigations began thanks to the finding of the existence of various complaints received in National Police stations throughout Spain that, despite the geographical dispersion, showed signs of being related to the same criminal origin.

Modus operandi structured in different phases

After analyzing the collected data, it was determined that the modus operandi consisted, in a first phase, in the publication of rental offers for tourist homes on specialized websites at very attractive prices. Then, and once the attention of the users of the pages had been captured, they proceeded to the phase of contact with the victim, at which time in addition to requesting a copy of their National Identity Document, in order to fill out an alleged lease, an agreement was established on the method of advance payment of the property reserve, an amount that was finally swindled.

Likewise, and once a copy of the identity documents was delivered, the criminals used them to contract financial products by usurping the identity of the victims, and thus have a means to receive the money from new scams without having to use their real names.

Double victimization of the injured

Those who fell for this deception not only suffered economic damage but, since the holiday offer was false, it generated a particularly burdensome situation for the victims, who ended up going to the supposed reserved vacation spot where they finally realized that they had been scammed .

In addition, the detainees requested that the defrauded funds be deposited into prepaid bank cards in the name of others affected. These cards were suitable for criminals as they have several advantages. Being able to request them online avoided the personification of the holders to formalize their hiring, making it difficult to verify the veracity of their identity. The documentation of the alleged holder had to be sent in digital format, a circumstance used by the scammers to link the prepaid cards to the affiliations of those affected by the frauds, who suffered double victimization, derived from both the property damage and the use of impersonation of your identity.

They extracted money with bank cards in the name of the victims

The cards were delivered to the email addresses provided by the members of this criminal group or their collaborators, and then immediately used by the network to withdraw cash through ATMs.

So far, an approximate benefit of € 250,000 has been documented, directly obtained with this criminal modality, of which around 100 victims have been detected. However, it is estimated that this amount may increase due to the seized computer material being examined. The operation has culminated in the arrest of 5 people in Alicante, making it possible to dismantle the criminal network.

Preventive advice

With the arrival of summer, the National Police reinforces cyber-patrols on the network to detect summer offers of homes that are really scams. The specialized agents of the Central Cybercrime Unit, according to the recommendations of the Internet User Security Office (OSI) and the National Institute of Cybersecurity (INCIBE), offer a series of key recommendations to take into account to try to avoid this type of fraud:

– Pay special attention to offers that are too attractive and with prices that are much lower than usual. Criminals seek to lure victims with succulent and hard-to-miss offers.

– Check the dates of publication of the announcements and their duration, since they are usually changed frequently. Do not get carried away by the first impression and offer, without consulting all the details of it.

– The wording of the advertisements and descriptions are usually poor, have numerous misspellings or are poorly written, usually being done in a hurry.

– Be careful in advance payments, checking the authenticity of the payment in hotels.

– Observe that the excessive complication of transactions, such as changes in bank accounts, changes in emails, telephones from which they are contacted or even from hidden numbers, difficulties in direct contact, usually indicate that they are measures adopted by criminals to avoid locating you and may be behind the scam attempt.

– Check the authenticity of the complainant and the existence of the property itself. Demand reliable information about the affiliation and its location. It should be borne in mind that such data should be included in the contract to be made.

– Take the corresponding security measures when using reliable payment methods. Never provide financial or bank card details.

– Be wary of inconsistencies between the language of the owners or clients, their nationalities, areas of residence, telephone prefixes, etc.

– Use the image comparator available to the main Internet search engines, and check if the images correspond to different rentals located in different geographical areas.

– Finally, in all efforts, using common sense is usually the most effective weapon to fight fraud and prevent it from occurring: if something is free or very attractive, it is very likely that we are the product ourselves.

In the case of having suspicions that we have been victims of this type of scams, the false offer must be reported to those responsible for the platforms where they are inserted, through the claim services that are usually enabled. It is very interesting that all the evidence or evidence that they can about the scam, and all those data about the advertiser and / or fraudster, are collected and documented, to make it known to the relevant authorities through the corresponding complaint to the National Police.

If you become aware of any criminal activity, such as the insertion of this type of fraudulent advertisement, even if you have not been a victim, you can make the facts known through the website -in the section Citizen Participation-, by sending a form on Computer Crime that is located in it.

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