I booked a fake villa for my family’s first trip in 11 years

Things got a little para-dicey on this family’s vacation.

In March, Neil Bray, 42, decided that he wanted to take his family of six to Spain for their first vacation in 11 years — booking a four-bedroom villa for his wife and children.

But when they rolled up to the property they’d booked for a two-week holiday in July, they found no such luxury lodging.

“The villa looked amazing. It had a swimming pool, sauna, jacuzzi and it was large,” Bray, from East Sussex, England, told South West News Service.

The bank manager found the vanishing villa through what he assumed was a legitimate Spanish holiday rental broker, which charged nearly $2,000 for the entire stay. Bray put down a deposit of around $200 and was told to pay the rest on arrival.

Nothing seemed fishy to the dad of four, claiming he’d spoken to the purported property owner just a week before his reservation.

Photo of a family.
A family of six tried to book a holiday to Spain — but when they turned up, it was a giant scam.
Neil Bray / SWNS

Photo of a big family in an airport.
It was the family’s first vacation in 11 years.
Neil Bray / SWNS

“He was suggesting places to eat and drink and telling me how nice the weather was out there,” Bray said about the property’s host.

So, on July 24, the group flew from Gatwick Airport in London to Alicante, spending over $2,000 on flights, where they were told that they would be picked up when they arrived.

Much to their shock, there was no escort to be found.

Photo of Alicante, Spain.
A man was scammed after he tried to take his family on vacation to Alicante, Spain.

“We arrived at the airport expecting to be met, then when we tried to contact on all the different methods – Facebook, WhatsApp, email, call and text — everything was dead,” Bray told SWNS.

“We found out very quickly that the villa was for sale and that this person lifted the photos from a for sale page.”

Photo of Alicante, Spain.
Bray was attempting to take his family to Alicante, Spain.

Photo of two people upset at an airport.
When the family landed in Spain, there was no one to pick them up, and all means of communication with the person who listed the property had gone dead.
Neil Bray / SWNS

He described the moment as an “absolute panic,” as he tried to figure out whether they should fly back home to the UK or find another accommodation in Spain.

Bray said that the family spent six hours “stranded” at the airport while they tried to sort things out.

They eventually found another property to serve as their vacation lodging, spending $1,600 more on the new booking than they’d budgeted.

Photo of a dad with his children.
The dad-of-four said that he feels “so stupid.”
Neil Bray / SWNS

That added expense ate into their vacation budget. “For us, it wasn’t that he scammed us for lots of money — the deposit was €180,” Bray explained. “It was the stress and worry of arriving having nothing and spending an additional €1,500 to just be able to stay somewhere.”

The ordeal has affected his mental health as well.

“I feel so stupid, it has affected my well-being and mental health — I feel so ridiculous,” Bray admitted.

He added, “We have just been focusing on making the most of the trip for the children.”

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