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Mum warns of holiday scam after forced to cancel family trip hours before flight

Simon Calder’s Travel

A mother-of-three who had to cancel a family holiday just hours before they were due to fly to Majorca after learning they had been scammed out of more than £4,000, with one of her children so devastated they “didn’t speak for a day”, is urging others to be vigilant as “it can happen to anyone”.

Emma Last, 48, a mental health and wellbeing strategist from Chorley, Lancashire, and her husband Zak, a 51-year-old artist, were due to fly out to a villa in Majorca for an eight-night family holiday in August 2023 – having seemingly booked a villa large enough to accommodate Emma’s parents and three children: Scarlette and Henri, both 17, and Xander, 14.

She first found the property on Airbnb but was then directed from there to WhatsApp, where she was provided with a link from “Travel Villas”, along with what claimed to be a “portal” to process the payment later on.

Emma’s mother, Julia, 74, paid £4,120 for the villa via this link and Emma paid £1,722.98 for the flights directly with Ryanair – but just hours before they were due to leave for the airport on August 7, they realised they had been scammed.

The family learned the “Travel Villas” listing had been “cloned” from another website called Oliver’s Travels, and after calling the company, who confirmed the villa was fully booked, Emma realised the mistake she had made.

“We started telling the children that we weren’t going, which was awful because they had their suitcases packed and they were all excited,” Emma told PA Real Life.

“Devastated children is the word – one didn’t speak for a day.”

Emma was meant to fly to Majorca with her family for eight nights (Katie N Brand Photography/PA Real Life)

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Emma, the founder of corporate mental health company Progressive Minds, then battled for months trying to get their money back for the villa – and although they were eventually successful, the money for the flights has not been recovered as Ryanair was not at fault.

Emma’s family had saved for months for the much-needed trip, and while she initially felt “embarrassed” about the scam, she now wants to help others with advice from cyber safety brand Norton to prevent them from falling victim to fraudsters.

“There isn’t much support, and I think because you feel really silly because you’ve been caught out, it’s not…

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