£7m lost to holiday booking fraud: tips to avoid being a victim
This is up from 2017 when 4,382 victims reported loses of £6.7m, according to ABTA, the travel association.
The average amount lost in 2018 was £1,380 per person.
Over half (53%) of the crimes reported to Action Fraud were related to the sale of airline tickets, with the largest individual loss of over £425,000 made in August.
The next most common fraud (25%) related to the sale of accommodation.
Mark Tanzer ABTA chief executive said: “ABTA sees at first-hand the damage caused by travel fraudsters after customers find out their much anticipated holiday or trip to visit family and friends does not actually exist.
“The cost to victims is not just financial; this crime causes very real emotional distress. Fraudsters are using increasingly sophisticated methods to target destinations and times of year when demand is high and availability limited, as they know people will be looking for good deals.
“As victims often find out just before they travel or even in resort that they have been defrauded, it can then be very difficult and expensive to obtain a legitimate replacement booking compounding the financial costs and emotional distress suffered by victims. ”
Types of holiday booking fraud
Airline tickets – As well as flights relating to holidays, fraudsters particularly target the visiting friends and family market with flights to Africa and the Indian subcontinent dominating the list of affected destinations. Fraudsters may be exploiting lack of knowledge of the strict UK regulations in place governing the sale of airline tickets.
Accommodation Fraud – Fraudsters are using increasingly sophisticated methods, with very professional and convincing websites offering upmarket villas for rent. Although some of these villas are fictitious many actually exist but are being offered by fraudsters without the legitimate owner’s knowledge. Spain and France are the two destinations most commonly targeted.
Religious trips – Haj trips are particularly attractive to fraudsters as the amounts of money involved are substantial with the average loss totalling almost £10,000 per reported case.
Top tips to avoid becoming a travel fraud victim
Action Fraud, ABTA and Get Safe Online have published advice on how to avoid becoming a victim of holiday booking fraud – and on how victims should go about reporting it.
This advice includes the top tips below:
- Stay safe online: Check the web address is legitimate and has not been altered by slight changes to a domain name – such as going from .co.uk to .org
- Do your research: Don’t just rely on one review – do a thorough online search to check the company’s credentials. If a company is defrauding people there is a good chance that consumers will post details of their experiences, and warnings about the company.
- Look for the logo: Check whether the company is a member of a recognised trade body such as ABTA. If you have any doubts, you can verify membership of ABTA online, at abta.com.
- Pay safe: Wherever possible, pay by credit card and be wary about paying directly into a private individual’s bank account.
- Check paperwork: You should study receipts, invoices as well as terms and conditions. Be very wary of any companies that don’t provide any at all. When booking through a Holiday Club or Timeshare, get the contract thoroughly vetted by a solicitor before signing up.
- Use your instincts: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Report it: Victims should contact Action Fraud via actionfraud.police.uk.