A SUCCESSFUL businesswoman who thought she was internet savvy was scammed out of £300 by a con artist when she booked a Spanish villa holiday advertised on Facebook.

And even though she reported the fraud to the social media giant, she has discovered the crook is still operating and has conned other victims.

Jemma Brown, 44, director of Wiltshire-based OHM clothing which specialises in branded clothing for schools, businesses, military and charitable organisations could not believe she was taken in by a scammer.

“I’m not looking for sympathy. I know our money is gone,” she told the Adver. “I want to warn people that it’s easy to be taken in and I’m livid this has happened to me. The warning signs were there and I should have listened to my gut instinct. If I can be pulled in by someone who is so manipulative so can others.”

She explained: “When you run your own business you never quite know if you will be able to take a holiday. Last year as I was browsing Facebook’s Marketplace I saw an advertisement for a lovely family villa in Majorca. It looked perfect so I made contact with the advertiser.

“We had a long conversation over the phone and he seemed perfectly fine. He even texted me a picture of his dog, having picked up on the fact that we are dog lovers too. He really hooked me in.”

Jemma, who is married to Anthony and has three children and lives in Devizes, was confident the man on the other end of the phone, then calling himself 'Jay Shearer’ was legitimate.

She said: “The truth is most of us are quite trusting. In my case, I’m usually quite sceptical and I check and double check however in this case I did not check enough. He asked for a £300 deposit and the truth was I didn’t pick up on the clear warning signs even that stage – for example he wouldn’t let me pay by credit card. He wanted a bank transfer. I transferred the money.”

Jemma and her family then looked forward to their holiday in Majorca in July last year. They booked and paid for flights and were even told a housekeeper would be available to help them on site if needed.

But late in the day there was another warning sign that all wasn’t well when Jemma asked for the number of the housekeeper so they could have a conversation. The conman said he would contact the housekeeper and get her to call.The call never happened.

A day before they were due to travel they were contacted by the conman on email to say there had been a flood at the villa and he was flying out to Majorca to sort things out.

Their holiday couldn’t happen but he promised he would refund their deposit, their flight costs and give them a free week’s stay at another time.

When Jemma tried to call him to sort out refunds, the phone number did not work and he disappeared. Her money was gone and her bank refused to refund the deposit saying she’d not done her due diligence.

“I realised I’d made some basic errors in this process and initially just accepted the situation,” Jemma said.

“It’s the kind of thing you think would never happen to you, but a part of me is happy that it did. I’m now hyper-aware of anyone on the internet and I just want people to know what can happen.”

Luckily for Jemma and her family, they managed to book another villa and the holiday went ahead almost exactly as planned.

She said: “I had to scramble around, I spent 18 hours looking. Because obviously we have the flights so luckily we found somewhere but had to pay a lot more.”

Jemma added: “We shielded it from the children and as far as they were aware it was all fine.”

She has reported the listings and the scammer’s profile to Facebook, but she is concerned the company is not taking it seriously because he was allowed to carry on.

And she regrets not alerting the police or trading standards straight away.

A spokesman for Facebook said: “We are sorry to hear about Jemma’s experience.

“Fraudulent activity is not allowed on Facebook and we continue to invest in a variety of tools to detect and shut down this kind of activity.

“We urge people to use the reporting tools available on every listing to flag content they suspect may violate our standards.”