Police probe Edinburgh Fringe flats con website

Cameron Shiels was scammed out of �280. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Cameron Shiels was scammed out of �280. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Police have launched a criminal investigation into an online scam that conned Festival-goers out of their flat deposits.

People paying for rental properties via fake company Fringe Flats lost their deposits as none of the accommodation advertised on its now defunct website belonged to it.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) officers last night confirmed the probe, revealing they believe the offences were carried out in their area.

A spokesman said they had received “several” allegations about the website.

He added: “Information received from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has suggested the offences were committed in the Manchester area, therefore Greater Manchester Police has taken a lead on the investigation.”

It is believed officers from Police Scotland are assisting the operation.

We exclusively revealed in July how Hawick civil servant Cameron Shiels was among a suspected list of more than 50 people to lose money after paying to rent a property through www.fringeflats.co.uk, only for the website to disappear.

East Midlands couple Susan Williams and Gordon Napier today told the Evening News how they were cheated out of £520 after paying to book a two-bedroom Edinburgh flat for a week through the site.

The pair, both in their 60s, have received written confirmation from GMP that an investigation is under way.

A letter from Detective Chief Inspector Richard Jackson said: “We will be launching a criminal investigation and you will be contacted by an officer who will be allocated to your case.”

Ms Williams, 64, said they made their booking on June 27, with the plan of visiting Edinburgh during the final week of the Festival.

She said: “It’s very difficult to get accommodation in Edinburgh and someone we knew said they’d seen this
website.

“It was clever in that they didn’t offer us the first flat we went for. They had some partial availability on some weeks. The correspondence was very chatty.”

The alarm bells sounded when they returned from a holiday at the end of July – still without a confirmation e-mail for their booking.

“We’d phoned and left messages,” Ms Williams said.

“There had been a voicemail from them – again very plausible – but you think that it’s summer holidays and people could be away. When we got back and checked, the website had disappeared.”