An Instagram ‘scam account’ has allegedly conned a luxury holiday resort out of thousands of pounds in one week.
Landal Gwel an Mor, a collection of plush eco and Scandinavian-style lodges near Redruth in Cornwall, has told how the ploy, which reportedly uses cloned credit cards and pockets guests’ cash, has deeply affected its business.
The account the resort accuses, which users need to request to follow, promises discounted luxury accommodation around the country. In its bio, it describes itself as an independent travel broker and has followers numbered in five figures. Prospective guests are encouraged to ‘DM [Direct Message] for enquiries.’
According to the resort, after clients decided to book, the people behind the account paid the full price of the reservations with cloned credit card details, while telling guests that they simply have to transfer the cut-price rate directly to them after they arrived at their lodge. Reservation details were apparently sent to the fraudulent email provided and then forwarded on to holidaymakers by the scammers.
It’s a tempting deal for guests, who allegedly secured up to a 50 per cent reduction on their holiday without paying anything up front. Rates for a week’s stay at the resort in October start from around £1,100 and rise to up to £2,699. Many of the lodges have their own hot tubs, sun decks and balconies with sea views. On-site facilities include a wildlife and conservation centre, restaurant, nine-hole golf course, fishing lake and spa.
Landal Gwel an Mor says it only became aware of the scam when it was contacted about a fraudulent transaction by its credit card merchant. On investigating the booking in detail, staff found the telephone numbers associated with the reservation were dead, but eventually got hold of the guest who had stayed who informed them he had booked the holiday through the account in question.
It soon became clear that this was not an isolated incident and the resort says it lost £7,500 in one week due to five fraudulent transactions. The owners are now keen to raise awareness to stop others in the travel industry falling victim to the ploy, although so far no other holiday companies have reported being subject to similar schemes.
The problem may have been exacerbated by the fact that, due to Covid protocols, guests do not have to go to the resort’s reception to verify credit card details and instead proceed straight to their lodges. In this way, it seems that self-catering companies or venues who limit contact could be particularly vulnerable to the scam.
Other companies supposedly promoted on the account without their knowledge include big names such as Hoseasons, Park Dean Resorts, Haven, Heart of the Lakes and Unique Home Stays.
Matt Way, Resort Director of Landal Gwel an Mor, said: “We have resolved the issue at our resort, but the danger is that anyone buying into this scam runs the risk of arriving on holiday to be turned away, linked to the fraud or having to pay twice.”
He added: “People are so excited to be able to travel again, so we are really disheartened that their plans could be ruined by these fraudsters and that unsuspecting people are having money stolen from their accounts. This type of scam, at this time, is another blow to our industry. We are all trying to recover from being closed, so losing revenue this way has a big impact on the businesses involved.”
When asked (over Instagram) to comment on the allegations, a spokesperson from an account of the same name –which has since been deleted – denied any wrongdoing and wrote: “We are a very successful enterprise, buying and selling all sorts of accommodation across the UK and Europe. We do not book anything ourselves and simply buy and re-sell from pages on Instagram or Facebook.”
The spokesperson rejected claims that they were operating a scam account, stating: “A scam is where people get ripped off – we certainly don’t do that.”
They added: “I think by the sounds of things someone is using our name to hide their criminal activity and this should be reported to the police."
Landal Gwel an Mor says it has reported the crime to the police, Action Fraud, the British Holiday & Home Parks Association and Instagram.