POLICE are investigating a major Facebook fraud after a North Yorkshire couple were left £1,000 out of pocket when they booked a holiday home that did not exist.
Laura Parks, who lives in Thirsk, booked a holiday lodge on the shore of Loch Ness as a Valentine’s surprise for her husband, Sean.
The lodge was advertised on Facebook and through a professional-looking website.
But when the couple arrived at their romantic destination, they were dismayed to find the lodge was not there.
Instead of enjoying a candlelit meal overlooking the famous loch, the pair ended up shivering in snowbound Perth Services. They were forced to seek overnight shelter after blizzard conditions made it impossible to return home.
Scottish police confirmed they were investigating claims of an internet fraud. Detectives are examining claims that the bogus company is run by an individual from Middlesbrough.
Laura, 21, said: “I feel such a fool but the lodges seemed completely believable. I didn’t just book a lodge on the basis of a Facebook page.
“I researched the company online. It had a website and several reviews on Trip Advisor, but now I think they were all bogus.”
The fictitious lodge cost Laura £375 but with petrol expenses, meals and emergency accommodation, the couple are almost £1,000 out of pocket.
Other potential victims of the same scam have emerged from across the country.
Laura said: “When I tried to get our money back I found the Facebook page gone and the company website no longer existed. It turned out that the photos of the lodge had been taken from another legitimate website that had nothing to do with the firm we dealt with.
“I booked the lodge as something special for my husband. We had never spent Valentine’s Day in the same country as man and wife due to him being serving with the Army in Afghanistan. I wanted it to be really special – something we would remember. Sadly, it was, but for all the wrong reasons. Our Valentine’s break was ruined.”
Police Scotland said last night: “We have received an allegation of fraud involving fictitious holiday homes advertised online and via social media. Our inquiries are ongoing and we will be working with other forces as necessary.”
Experts say there has been an explosion in the number of fake online holiday scams over the past couple of years.
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau said that fake villas and apartments now account for a third of all total holiday fraud complaints.