A man who was arranging a trip for him and his family to scatter his mum’s ashes was defrauded out of thousands of pounds.
Tim Moore appeared on BBC One’s Rip Off Britain to share his story of how he was conned out of $5,000 (currently around £4,000) for a holiday villa.
He was booking the villa on the island of Montserrat, so he and his family could travel there to scatter his mother’s ashes.
This was to be a poignant journey as Tim’s mum was born on the island so it felt like they were “bringing her home”.
Tim found an ideal hillside villa for the 14 family members to stay at during the trip. He contacted the agent, who replied to say it was usually $500 a night, although the owners could reduce this to $450 a night.
Tim was happy with the offer and sent another email asking how to pay the deposit to secure the villa.
He had a reply offering a further enticing discount. The 12 nights he wanted to book would cost $5,400 at the $450 a night price, but the email offered a price of $5,000 if he paid the full amount up front.
Unfortunately, criminals had hacked into the agents’ emails and this last email was from them, rather than the real agents.
The bogus message included bank account details for the payment, which were for an account based in the US. This did not come as a surprise to Tim as many of the villas on the island are owned by Americans.
He made the $5,000 (£4,000) payment by bank transfer and received an email confirming the payment.
Two weeks before their trip, Tim and his sister checked the villa on Airbnb and were alarmed to see it was still available for the dates they had booked.
Tim contacted the owners of the villa who said they had not received any payment for the villa.
Tim said of the realisation he had been scammed: “It was a horrendous moment. Number one, you appear to have lost all this money.
“Number two, 14 people have had to go on this really important family trip with my mum’s ashes, and we’ve got nowhere to stay now.”
Tim tried to recover the funds from his bank but as the scammer’s account was based outside of the UK, he was not able to get his money back.
Fortunately, the family were still able to make it out to the island and to honour his mum’s memory by scattering her ashes.
This type of scam, where fraudsters intercept emails and then send a fake email to request payment, often happens with letting agents and property sales.
People can also protect themselves from these scams by contacting the company by phone to check the payment request is authentic.
A person can also transfer a small initial amount and then call the group to check the money has gone through to them before paying the rest.
Tim said: “It was really quite scary to think that there was this level of monitoring going on, with all these emails I’d been sending this guy for days and days on end, while they’re just waiting for the right moment, biding their time, to sneak in.
“It’s like being burgled, you feel like someone’s been into your stuff and rummaged around, and taken advantage of you in that way as well. It was awful.”
Rip Off Britain airs on BBC One this week at 9.15am.
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