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Bargain-hunting Brits warned to be on guard over holiday scams

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

More than £15m has been lost to holiday fraud in the past year, with travellers urged to do their research before really being burned.

In the last financial year, more than 6,400 reports of holiday fraud have been noted to Action Fraud, resulting in victims losing £15m.

This is a 41% increase on last year’s figure, with victims losing an average of £2,372 each.

And victims are more likely to hail from London, West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Thames Valley, West Yorkshire, Hampshire, Essex, Sussex, Avon and Somerset, and Kent.

Further, people in their 20s and 40s who reported losses accounted for 44% of all reports, dispelling the myth that only older people are targeted by fraudsters.

According to Action Fraud, more than £4.6m was lost in the months between May and August alone.

With half-term and summer holidays just around the corner – the periods seeing the highest levels of holiday fraud – travellers are urged to be on guard when booking, to avoid getting burnt before they’re on the beach.

Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, said: “With summer only just around the corner, we enter a period where fraudsters ramp up efforts to catch out unsuspecting members of the public.

“Scammers prey on people wanting to find a good deal online – whether that’s cheap flights, great hotels close to the beach at discounted rates or package holidays that undercut well-known travel operators and brands, people are more than willing to snap up a deal which sometimes comes at a heavy cost.

“When booking a holiday here or abroad, it’s important to do your research before handing over any money and to double check any website. To avoid the wave of crime this summer we encourage people to stop, check and research before paying. If it sounds too good to be true – it most definitely is.”

Tips to protect your money when booking a holiday

Anna Bowles, head of consumers and enforcement at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, which runs the ATOL financial protection scheme, said travellers should check reviews of firms and ensure that the booking includes all the extras you’re expecting, such as baggage allowance and transfers.

“We also recommend some simple measures to financially protect your well-earned holiday, including using the atol.org website to check your trip is financially protected by ATOL, consider paying by credit card and taking out travel insurance as soon as you book. This will add extra layers of protection against anything going wrong with your booking,” Bowles said.

She added that holiday fraud encompasses many different tactics employed by criminals to dupe unsuspecting members of the public.

“The most frequent frauds are clone comparison websites, airline websites and holiday websites.

“At a quick glance it would appear you are on a trusted site, whereas in reality the URL has been changed. Here, victims assume they are on the genuine site and willingly hand over money at a great cost,” Bowles said.

Indeed, YourMoney.com revealed how a spoof RingGo site had duped unsuspected drivers into registering their details and handing over card details. After alerting RingGo and Google, the duplicate site no longer ranked top in the search engine’s list.

When it comes to holiday fraud, some travellers only find out they’ve been scammed when at the airport to check in for a flight after believing the convincing confirmation emails or booking references.

And an emerging trend is fraudsters using counterfeit Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (ATOL) protect numbers on their fake webpage.

“All credible and trusted companies are provided with a number that shows the company has passed the regulatory checks by ATOL, with this number being unique to the website. Recently, fake websites have used duplicate or fabricated numbers which have been edited onto an ATOL logo.

“ATOL recommends double checking all numbers on websites and with travel operators before handing over any money. If you do pay, use a credit card as this can offer greater protection should you lose your money,” Bowles said.