Five-star resort Landal Gwel an Mor in Cornwall has lost out on £7,500 in one week alone from the scheme, which purports to offer guests stays at hotels across the country for 50 per cent off.
The way it works is fairly straightforward: the Everything_Half Instagram account offers to secure stays at accommodation for guests for half the advertised price.
Customers are told to transfer the money direct to Everything_Half upon arrival. Meanwhile, the Instagram account has already paid the hotel for the stay in full – but using cloned or stolen credit card details.
By the time the hotel in question finds out what has happened – when their credit card merchant supplier inevitably deducts the original payment, after whoever’s card details have been stolen complains – it’s too late.
Landal Gwel an Mor was just one of many reputable holiday companies and hotels listed on the Everything_Half account, with Hoseasons, Park Dean Resorts, Haven, Heart of the Lakes and Unique Home Stays all appearing without their knowledge.
“As soon as we became aware of this scam, we took measures to protect our customers and the business, making it our mission to warn the other holiday businesses listed on this site too, all well-established names in travel spanning the country,” Matt Way, resort director of Landal Gwel an Mor, tells The Independent.
“We've resolved the issue at our resort but the danger is that anyone buying into this scam runs the risk of arriving on holiday to be turned away, linked to the fraud or having to pay twice.”
The resort first became aware of the issue when it was contacted by the credit card merchant provider about a fraudulent transaction. Staff managed to get hold of the guest, who revealed they had booked via the Everything_Half Instagram account.
Since then, several more fraudulent bookings have been made, causing the property to lose thousands of pounds in one week.
The company has since reported the scheme to the police, Action Fraud, Instagram and British Holiday & Home Parks Association, the resort’s governing body, and the Instagram account has subsequently been taken down.
Prior to the account’s removal, it had 12,000 followers and described itself as a “UK independent travel broker offering luxury getaways at affordable prices”.
“People are so excited to be able to travel again so we are really disheartened that their plans could be ruined by these fraudsters and that unsuspecting people are having their accounts stolen from,” says Mr Way.
“This type of scam, at this time, is another blow to our industry - we are all trying to recover from being closed so losing revenue this way has a big impact on the businesses involved.”
A Facebook company spokesperson told The Independent: “We do not want fraudulent or inauthentic behaviour on Instagram, and we have removed the account brought to our attention. We’re continuously investing in our teams and technology to identify and remove fraudulent activity.”