Brits lose £7.2m to holiday-related fraud: how to avoid being scammed
New figures reveal the number of fraud cases rose by 20% year-on-year, with victims being conned when buying airline tickets, booking accommodation online and purchasing timeshares.
The average amount lost per person was £1,200.
The numbers of people reporting travel fraud to the police jumped in the summer and in December, indicating fraudsters target the most popular travel periods.
Travel experts say good early booking levels for 2017 mean holidaymakers may be particularly vulnerable this year as accommodation and flights are selling at a premium. They say fraudsters could take advantage by offering ‘good deals’ over the summer.
Those aged 20-29 and 30-39 were most commonly targeted by scammers, perhaps indicating that the over 50s are warier of “too good to be true” offers.
The majority of victims pay by bank transfer or cash so there is no means of getting their money back.
Mark Tanzer, ABTA chief executive, said: “ABTA is regularly contacted by members of the public who have been caught out by increasingly sophisticated travel related frauds. We know at first-hand that the loss and shock of finding that your flight or holiday accommodation has not been booked can be very significant.”
Deputy head of Action Fraud, Steve Proffitt said: “From fraudulent flights to non-existent accommodation, the impact of falling victim to holiday fraud can be far greater than the financial loss and we hope that by raising awareness, people will feel better able to protect themselves from being a victim of fraud. We urge anyone who believes they have been a victim of fraud to visit actionfraud.police.uk and report the incident.”
Top tips to avoid becoming a travel fraud victim
The City of London Police, ABTA and Get Safe Online have published advice on how to avoid becoming a victim of holiday booking fraud:
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 www.abta.com.
Pay safe: Never pay directly into a private individual’s bank account. Paying by direct bank transfer is like paying by cash – the money is very difficult to trace and is not refundable. Wherever possible, pay by credit card or a debit card.
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 www.actionfraud.police.uk.
Get free expert advice: For further advice on how to stay safe when booking or researching travel online, go to https://www.getsafeonline.org/shopping-banking/holiday-and-travel-booking/