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Tourist company is luring customers with luxury villas

22 December 2014 / 16:12:38  GRReporter
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Over 50,000 is the number of victims of a massive fraud organized by bogus travel agencies on the Internet shortly before the Christmas and New Year holidays.

As every year, the fraudsters attract the unsuspecting customers with low prices of the packages offered through advertisements and publications on dozens of websites and social networks, and then just disappear.

According to the Greek service to combat electronic crime, the particular type of Internet fraud is a year-round phenomenon, but the number of frauds significantly increases in the days before Christmas. At present, the number of fake websites that offer very attractive prices for the winter holidays is over 150, and the service receives complaints on a daily basis.

New websites offering very cheap holidays in Greece and abroad appear online every day. However, the number of lawsuits filed is low, since the losses incurred by the citizens are relatively small, amounting to about 100-500 euro. The fact that the fee for filing a claim is 100 euro further discourages the victims of fraudsters to seek legal aid.

They "offer" holiday packages in villas in Switzerland and Austria at a cost of 300-500 euro. Winter nights in Gstaad, which normally cost at least 1,000 euro per night or 2,000 euro at the most, are being offered in online advertisements for 300 euro. Parallel to this, they offer villas for rent in Greece and abroad, depending on the season. Some bogus travel companies undertake to secure even airline or ship tickets, which have also proved false to the unpleasant surprise of the cheated customers.

The anti-electronic crime service claims that the purpose of fraudsters is to not only lure potential victims and steal the money they have deposited in advance but also to obtain information on them and their financial condition.

To look more "authentic" the websites in question describe collaborations with renowned business websites. However, they provide only an e-mail address to contact them in order to avoid being easily detected.

"These are non-existent "cheap" holiday packages. If you examine them carefully and wisely, you will understand that they cannot be real. However, because the economic crisis has limited the travelling abilities of the Greeks and since the lie is wrapped in a very luxurious packaging, many potential customers deposit money," says a member of the service to the Greek daily Ethnos.

According to police representatives, the problem is assuming huge proportions due to two main factors, namely the anonymity on the Internet and the lack of a legal framework to punish the fraudsters.

Indicative is the case of a Thessaloniki resident, who has drawn the attention of the authorities dozens of times. Over the past three and a half years, more than 90 pre-trial cases of Internet fraud by offering tourist packages have been initiated against him but he is free. Assumingly the number of his victims is higher than 1,000. "No matter how many times he was arrested, he would repay the money he owed to the people who had filed a lawsuit against him and it was over. The last time he even had the nerve to say, "You stick to your job as police and I will stick to mine," says a policeman from Thessaloniki.

The service to combat electronic crime warns that Internet fraudsters are most active during holidays. It has established that the number of fraudulent emails sent has increased in recent days. Therefore, the office has issued a list of warnings to network users, as follows:

  1. Users are recommended to verify the data provided in this type of advertisements in a second source or in the phonebook. Typically, the fraudsters avoid phone contact and prefer to hide behind the anonymity provided by the Internet. When the calls to the "office" phone remain unanswered it is a sign that things are incorrect and the reader of the ad must take action to establish the identity of the advertiser.
  2. Users are recommended to carefully examine the contact details provided on Internet ads and pay particular attention to the absence of the advertiser’s company name. The absence of such is always evidence of a false advertisement.
  3. Users are recommended to write down the website addresses rather than to use the available links.
  4. The recipients of extremely attractive, profitable and obviously unreal offers for vacation packages are recommended not to respond to such emails or send their personal data.
  5. Users are recommended to use an alternative e-mail address with such "agencies" in order for it to differ from that which they use for personal correspondence.
  6. Users are recommended to establish the existence of those houses and villas for rent in resorts.
  7. The service warns that any request by a known or unknown advertiser who requires users to submit data such as credit card numbers or bank account numbers via e-mail must be regarded as suspicious.
Tags: Crime newsInternet fraudsVacationSwiss villasWinter resortsService to combat electronic crime
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