A photograph of a seaside villa supposedly in Normandy was used as part of a con to get people to put down deposits for a holiday home that didn’t actually exist.
A woman from Rouen is understood to have obtained thousands of euros after advertising a pretty villa by the sea in Quettehoue near Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue on the Manche coast for â‚¬800 for a week and taking deposits of â‚¬200.
But the villa, advertised on the popular sales website Le Bon Coin did not exist. She used photos taken from Google and didnâ€™t do her research very well as although the holiday home was advertised as being in Normandy, the photo was of a typical Provencal Mas.
It is believed that at least 40 people were conned into paying a deposit of at least â‚¬200 for the fake Normandy holiday home that was advertised between 21 April and 27 July 2012.
Fraud police have to date formally identified 21 of the victims through various bank accounts that the 28 year old woman used to cash checks that were sent to her as deposits. But they believe that the scam could be much bigger and are appealing to anyone who thinks they may be a victim to get in touch.
Those taken in by the scam are from all over France. Those identified so far are aged between 29 and 50 and from Caen, Amiens, Les Mureaux, Pantin and Paris. It is thought that the woman made at least â‚¬5,000 from her scam.
The woman has admitted the scam and told police that she did it because she had serious debts and couldnâ€™t mange on the benefits she was receiving. She has been bailed to appear before a correctional hearing next April while investigators try to find out the extent of the fraud.
Officers said that people should be aware of these kinds of cons which are increasing at an alarming rate. The internet sites are not responsible for the postings and it is up to the person replying to an advert to check it out.
People are advised to ask for a contract and also for more information such as photographs and references before parting with any money and not to pay the full amount until everything has been verified.
They should ask lots of questions and if the person advertising the holiday home hesitates or cannot supply photos other than the one used on the advert then there could be something wrong.