Hen party warning issued after bridesmaids scammed out of £2,300 for 'Marbella villa'

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Talia Tester, 30, and Rachel Smith, 29, feel “guilty and embarrassed” after being ripped-off.

The pair, from Brighton, were organising a four-day trip to Marbella to celebrate the upcoming wedding of their childhood friend, Anna Harris, 29, in September this year.

“It was supposed to be her dream hen do and is somewhere Anna really wanted to go”, said Talia.

“We have had to pay out so much,” she added. “The emotional stress has had a huge impact on my life. It ruined my Christmas.

Bridesmaid scam

WEDDING PARTY: (l-r) Rachel Smith, 29, Talia Tester, 30, and Anna Harris (Pic: SWNS / TALIA TESTER)

“The emotional stress has had a huge impact on my life. It ruined my Christmas”

Bridesmaid Talia

“I feel guilty because we were responsible for looking after the money. We feel like we have let Anna down.

“It was supposed to be an amazing experience but every time someone mentions the hen party I feel sick.”

The pair picked luxury Villa Siempre Domingo from the HomeAway booking site and initially began speaking with the villa’s real owner, who confirmed the availability for their dates.

However, Talia claims they were sent a message via the site’s official messaging service – by a fraudster posing as the owner – asking them to instead communicate via email.

The fraudster asked for a direct bank transfer to secure the property which they sent.

Talia, said: “I was told to send an email to continue the booking and we were directed away from the site.

bridesmaid hen party

HORRIFIED: Talia said she now feels sick at the prospect of the hen party (Pic: SWNS / TALIA TESTER)

“HomeAway have told us that because the payment wasn’t made on the site, they aren’t responsible.

“It all looked legitimate. I was told to pay 50% of the price to secure the villa.”

But Talia says she knew something was wrong when the villa’s real owner denied asking for the cash.

She added: “I rang him to ask if he received the payment but he said the last time we spoke was when we made the initial enquiry.

“He said ‘this isn’t me’ when I sent him screenshots of the emails.”

Talia says she rang HomeAway straight away in the hope of resolving the issue, and staff acknowledged it as a “scam incident”.

bridesmaid hen party

CONNED: Talia was told by the fraudster to send money direct to a bank account (Pic: SWNS / TALIA TESTER)

However, staff told Talia the company was not liable as the transaction was made off-site, she said.

Talia says the pair have been unable to recover the cash and Natwest has been unable to track down the culprit.

The two of them split the £2,300 bill between them.

They refused to carry on organising the hen do out of fear of being scammed again.

Other members of their group have now booked a different villa, through Airbnb, ahead of Anna’s wedding to fiance, Oli Draper, 31, in November.

Talia said: “We have had to foot the whole bill. There is not enough protection for customers.”

bridesmaid hen party

PAINFUL: Talia and Rachel lost £2,300 between them (Pic: SWNS / TALIA TESTER)

HomeAway does have a “security centre” section on its website and warns against off-site transactions.

A HomeAway spokesperson said: “Our customer’s safety and security is a key priority and it is very important to us to continuously advise our travellers and partners through our website and via email on how to book and rent their holiday homes safely.

“In the case of Mrs Tester, our Basic Rental Guarantee is effective, as the booking as well as the payment were not made through our platform.

“We also work with the respective owner directly.

“This is a rare occurrence on the HomeAway platform and every year, millions of travellers book and spend unforgettable holidays in one of the more than 2 million unique places to stay of our partners.

“We of course understand that every single incident is very disappointing for the individual traveller.

“Unfortunately, increasingly sophisticated criminals are targeting online marketplaces across the board and it is important for consumers to be aware of the risks when they use any online platform, in order to minimise the chances of fraud.

“It is very important to us to continually advise travellers on our sites of this and is why we are constantly working to ensure the systems and processes we have in place are effective.”

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