The Guardia Civil and National Police act on complaints of holiday rental fraud. | Arguiñe Escandón

The number of reports of online fraud concerning pirated holiday rentals adverts has increased in recent months. Holidaymakers are duped by clones of websites or ones that are very similar. They make bookings, but the money disappears and they find themselves without accommodation and with little possibility of recourse.

Spain's National Institute for Cybersecurity has warned on several occasions of the hacking of websites in the tourism sector and on growing dependence on online technologies. Leading websites such as Airbnb and Booking can be used to advertise holiday rentals that turn out to be traps.

Complaints in countries of origin are only occasionally transferred to Spain. An example of this happening comes from France. The Prosecutor's Office in Madrid has been advised of of a reservation in Mallorca. The client booked nine nights for just over 4,000 euros through a website that turned out to be fraudulent.

The website in this instance had disappeared. Contact telephone numbers and links were inactive. The French authorities traced funds to a current account opened in Madrid in the name of a limited company with a registered office in Granada. The scam is now being investigated by a court in Granada.

A case before the courts in Palma is pending trial. The defendant was the holder of a current account into which money for a fraudulent booking was deposited. He is accused of possible money laundering. But he was just the intermediary, who took a small percentage of what was deposited. The real perpetrators of the fraud have not been located, something that makes it difficult to prosecute this type of fraud.