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Brits warned about coronavirus holiday scams

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Brits are urged to be on guard when booking holiday deals as criminals seek to take advantage of the coronavirus uncertainty.

Holidaymakers are warned about fake caravan and motorhome listings, refund offers and travel deals as criminals target victims by impersonation and the use of urgency in transactions.

Trade body, UK Finance’s ‘take five to stop fraud’ campaign lists the common scams to watch out for and how consumers can protect themselves.

Criminals are taking advantage of the growing demand for ‘staycations’ this summer by advertising fake listings for caravans and motorhomes on auction sites and citing lockdown restrictions as the reason vehicles can’t be viewed in person.

UK Finance said these vehicles are advertised at attractive prices and prospective buyers think they’re getting a good deal but the reality is that they’ll spend money on something that doesn’t exist.

If you can’t see the vehicle in person, ask to see a video and use a secure payment method rather than paying via a bank transfer. Where possible, use a credit card when making purchases over £100 and up to £30,000 as you receive protection under Section 75.

Given the current travel restrictions, thousands of people have applied for refunds for cancelled flights and holidays. UK Finance said scammers are exploiting this situation by sending phishing emails, ‘spoofed’ calls or social media posts and adverts claiming to offer refunds from airlines, travel providers or banks. Often emails and posts will include links leading to fake websites used to steal personal and financial information that can infect a victim’s device with malware.

As such, consumers are reminded never to click on links or attachments in social media posts or emails, to question uninvited approaches and never give out personal or financial information unless you know and trust the organisation.

Criminals are also setting up fake websites offering ‘cheap travel deals’ which are used to obtain your money and information. Websites may look similar to the genuine organisation’s but subtle changes in the URL can indicate that it’s fraudulent.

These websites may also seem professional and convincing, using images of luxury villas and apartments that don’t exist to convince victims they’re trusted and genuine. These are offered for rent, often at discounted prices and require a deposit to be made which is never returned.

Holidaymakers should read online reviews and access the website you’re buying from by typing it in to the web browser and avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails.

‘Take five to stop fraud’

Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, said: “Criminals will exploit the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on people’s holiday plans to commit fraud, whether it’s advertising fake listings for caravans or pretending to offer refunds for cancelled flights.

“The banking and finance industry is working closely with law enforcement to crack down on these cruel scams, but we need others to play their part too. It’s important that auction websites and social platforms take swift action to remove fraudulent posts and listings being used to promote holiday scams.

“We would urge customers to also be on the lookout for scams and follow the advice of the take five to stop fraud campaign. Always be wary of any requests to pay by bank transfer when buying goods or services online and instead use the secure payment options recommended by reputable websites.

“It’s also important to question any emails, phone calls or social media posts offering refunds for cancelled holidays and not to click on links or attachments in case it’s a scam. Instead, contact organisations directly to confirm requests using a known email or phone number such as the one on their official website.”

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