BRITS have been warned against booking holidays on Facebook after a young family was left heartbroken by a scammer – and left hundreds out of pocket.
Melvin Caldwell was looking for a last-minute deal with partner Lisa McDonald, 30 and their three children when he stumbled across an ad on Facebook for a four-day holiday at a lodge in Ayrshire, Scotland.
The 30-year-old claims he got in touch with Rebecca, who said she had a luxury lodge with a hot tub available that day due to a cancellation.
Melvin says he paid £80 and agreed to pay another £219 on arrival before packing up the car at 8pm and setting off on the two-hour trip from Glasgow.
Screenshots of texts between Lisa and Rebecca show her offering to throw in a BBQ pack free of charge and promised to have a bottle of wine waiting for them when they arrived.
However when the family finally arrived at Gadgirth Estate Lodges, which Rebecca had given them the address for, they realised they'd been scammed as a receptionist told them they don't rent lodges out through Facebook and had no idea who Rebecca was.
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Melvin explained: "She seemed trustworthy and we spoke to her on the phone.
"The bottle of wine part was really sickening because we thought we'd be able to have a drink and relax.
"We got there at about 10.30pm and it was pitch dark – we were calling and calling and messaged. We were going round checking people's lodges at that time of night to see which was ours.
"We called the lodge reception and they said they don't rent out lodges on Facebook Marketplace so we realised it was game over."
He added: "The kids were screaming, they were upset, they were screaming 'are we there yet?'.
"It was like something out of a horror movie. It was soul-destroying, we're livid. I was really annoyed and I was driving about. I've wasted my time and fuel to get there.
Gadgirth Estate Lodges said they were saddened to see someone had used pictures of their venue and their name in the 'scam' – particularly over "something as important nowadays as a family getting away for a break".
The company advised caution when booking holidays and urged people to do their research beforehand – while kindly offering an £80 discount if the family wanted to come to their lodges to stay in the future.
The family's evening got even worse as they didn't arrive back to Glasgow until 3am because of traffic and roadworks.
Melvin said: "People have said I should never have given someone my money of that without proof and why didn't I phone the place but who just jumps to conclusions that quick.
"I'm devastated that I never got the holiday."
A spokesman for Gadgirth Estate Lodges said: "This is indeed a sad story of what appears to be a family being conned out of £80.
"It appears the photo [that the family were sent] is taken of various lodges at different sites around the country from the web, one of which is an external of a lodge at our site.
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"Here at Gadgirth we pride ourselves on our customer experiences and guests can only book through our partners at Hoseasons portal, you can find us at Hoseasons website along with our own site which directs you back to Hoseasons portal, this ensures complete efficiency with our booking system. We book Monday to Friday, Friday to Monday plus weeks/fortnights.
"A quick check on our website or a call to us to check would have saved being caught with this scam. I would always advise caution when not booking direct or via Parks Agent."
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