Published: 09:01, 18 April 2019
| Updated: 12:56, 18 April 2019
by Alex Jee
A father-of-five says he was conned out of nearly £5,000 after booking a dream family holiday that never existed.
Now, chocolate taster and author Angus Kennedy wants his story to serve as a warning for others after a series of promises included in his holiday package to Majorca were never delivered.
The website he used to book the trip, dreamvillasspain.com, claims its goal is to "create your dream holiday experience and exceed your expectations".
It also claims it can "deliver your most memorable holiday yet".
However, Angus, who lives in London Road and owns Kennedy's Publication in Kings Hill, was left stranded with his family after being told by the owner of the luxurious seven-bedroom villa where they were hoping to stay that he knew nothing about their booking.
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), a travel trade association for tour operators, said 'Dream Villas Spain' was not a registered member, while the company registration number listed on its website yields no results in a search on the government's Companies House database.
Angus told KentOnline: "It is a very authentic-looking website claiming to have 780 villas to choose from, but it is an absolutely massive scam".
The family were excited for their trip to start when they flew from Gatwick to Palma de Mallorca Airport, but things quickly started to go wrong.
"I knew deep down that we had been scammed..." Angus Kennedy
"We got to Palma airport, and the scammers - we don't know what else to call them now - had promised us a ride, we were expecting a driver to pick us up," he said.
"We must have waited for at least an hour before I asked my wife if I could see the documents we had on us.
"There was no telephone number for a taxi company or the villa, and when we tried the contact number for the website, the phone just went dead.
"The minute that happened, my heart plummeted. I knew deep down that we had been scammed."
Jumping into two taxis, Angus and his family went to the area where the villa was supposed to be, and started asking locals if they knew where it was.
Eventually, they were directed to a large house with a big metal gate in front of it, which opened for them after they hit the buzzer.
Angus said: "As we were driving down this massive - and I mean massive - driveway, everyone was so happy, the kids were cheering and laughing, but I somehow knew that this wasn't the end."
And sure enough, the owner of the house came out to inform them that this was his private property, and that he had never rented it out.
"My wife burst into tears," Angus continued, "there was a horrible moment where the taxies had driven off, and we were just left at the front of somebody else's house, with our suitcases around us.
"We showed the owner the website, and he was shocked. Somehow, they had reviews, and even pictures of the interior of his house. They had even gone as far as to fake Trustpilot reviews. It was a truly professional job."
Thankfully, the owner of the house took sympathy with the family and allowed them to stay the night, giving them food and drink.
Since then, however, they have had to rely on the goodwill of the residents until they are able to sort something more concrete out.
He added: "The people in Majorca are absolutely horrified, and have helped us out a great deal, but the fact is that we are now on day three of our holiday and we haven't unpacked our bags, or had a proper meal.
"My main concern is that this can happen to anybody across the world. We don't want to be a sob story, we just want to prevent this happening to any more people. Everyone needs to avoid that website like the plague.
"We don't want to be a sob story, we just want to prevent this happening to any more people..." Angus Kennedy
This isn't the first time Angus has fallen victim to a scam; in 2015, his family publishing business was hit by fraudsters, who stole £30,000 by impersonating him and demanding the money be transferred to fake clients. Despite this, he is determined to remain upbeat.
"We're not going to let our family holiday be ruined,," He said, "it gives me hope that we might be able to stop this happening to anyone else."
An ABTA spokesperson said: “ABTA sees at first-hand the damage caused by travel fraudsters after customers find out their much anticipated holiday or trip to visit loved ones may not actually exist.
"This is why we work with City of London Police and Get Safe Online on our travel fraud advice and awareness campaign. The cost to victims is not just financial; this crime causes very real disappointment and emotional distress.
"Fraudsters often target destinations and times of year when demand is high and availability limited when they know people will be looking for good deals.
"This can then make it very difficult and expensive to obtain a legitimate replacement booking once the fraud has been revealed.”
Dream Villas Spain, operated by Digital Dreams SL, has not responded to requests for a response.