The National Police have arrested five people in Marbella – four men and one woman – for allegedly cheating more than half a million euros out of people responding to adverts in a massive fake property scam.
The five are alleged to have promoted “new developments” on real estate websites at very attractive prices in several locations around the country, including Alhaurín el Grande and Mijas (Málaga), Punta Umbría (Huelva), Alcalá de Guadaira (Seville) and Madrid. They allegedly conned money out of around 100 victims.
The investigation began with several complaints from people claiming to have been the victims of a fraud having paid deposits for property they later discovered did not exist. They claimed that once they had paid a deposit – between 5,000 and 10,000 euros – the company promoting the properties ceased contact with them.
According to the police, the first part of the property scam started with finding a suitable plot of land for sale in an attractive location. They would then contact the owners of that land feigning interest in a purchase. However, the real reason for the enquiries was to obtain plans, building licence information, height limits, the types of property licenced for the plot and data pertaining to the owners of the land.
They would then obtain plans from real promotions in other locations and would modify them to the type of promotion they were going to offer, as well as creating false contracts and other documentation. They would then upload these fake promotions to property portals on the internet and offer them for sale providing telephone numbers for potential clients to contact them.
Potential victims would call to show interest and would then receive very convincing documentation, building status information etc, all designed to dupe the client into thinking the property was real. The final step was to convince the client to make a bank transfer in order to “reserve” the imaginary property.
Once the money was received the company would cut all communication with the scammed which alerted them to the worrying thought that they may have been conned.
Eight Search Warrants
The National Police have now discovered more than 20 victims in the province of Málaga, with a total amount defrauded amounting to more than 100,000 euros. These people were conned into purchasing non-existent property in Mijas and Alhaurín el Grande.
Identified in Marbella as the “mastermind” behind the property scam, is a 37 year old Spanish national who police say has alleged involvement in other scams related to fictitious housing developments around the country.
He was being sought by several courts in Spain, with at least eight arrest warrants issued for him. In the course of the investigation a further four people were arrested for their involvement in the crime of fraud and forgery. The use of companies and frontmen, as well as multiple bank accounts, hindered the investigation.
In one raided property, police found a huge amount of documentation, plans, contracts and reservation documents from at least 40 victims of the property scam. Following the arrests, several bank accounts linked to the alleged criminals have now been frozen.
This is not a new scam, but it has not been common in recent years. Before the financial crisis this happened a lot more. However, it is a simple process to protect yourself from this kind of fraud.
When looking at new property, be sure to use a reputable agency, one with an office which you can walk into. Buying a property online without visiting the agent, or at least visiting the proposed location of the property, is very risky.
New developments are usually marketed by multiple agencies allowing the developer to maximise exposure so look around to see if others are selling the same properties. If they are not, perhaps there is a reason why.
When looking at new property with Marbella For Sale, we will be happy to take you to the plot to show you the area. In most cases this will include a show-home which the developer will build to show how your property will look. Reputable developers will usually have a sales-office on site. We will also provide as much support documentation as is available, including collaboration agreements with the developer. This proves that we are authorised to be marketing the property. When it comes time to pay a deposit, we will take you to the developers office or to a lawyer for signing.
We have been selling property on the coast for over 10 years. We have a well established office in Puerto Banús which any potential customers are more than welcome to visit.