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Five common holiday booking scams and how to avoid them

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith

Are you planning on booking a holiday this month? If so, watch out for these common scams

If the cold January days leave you dreaming of sunnier climes, you’re not alone. The start of the year is peak holiday-booking time with millions of Brits expected to book trips abroad this month.

Many of the big brands have sales on at the moment, so there are plenty of good deals up for grabs. But those on the look-out for a bargain should be cautious if a deal looks too good to be true.

Scammers know this is a popular time to book a holiday so are on the prowl for unsuspecting victims.

Here, Raj Samani, chief scientist and fellow at McAfee, the cybersecurity firm, reveals five of the most common holiday-related scams and how to avoid them…

Websites which look real: The most common scam people have fallen for is booking flights and/or accommodation through a site they thought was genuine only to turn up at the airport or accommodation and find there was no record of the booking.

Advice: Just because it looks real doesn’t mean it is. Make sure you’re only booking through trusted sites. Internet security is there to protect you and will let you know if a website has been authorised as being safe.

Being directed away from trusted platforms for payment and communication: Consumers are being lured away from trusted platforms by fraudsters who are often requesting payment separately from the booking platform. This should raise red flags as this can be where people end up handing over money directly into the pockets of scammers.

Advice: Fraudsters may try and lure people away from trusted platforms and, while it might sound enticing to get an extra discount, it would be much worse to find the money had been taken and you turned up to no accommodation. Holiday makers should keep all communications, bookings and payments on trusted platforms to help protect them from fraud and phishing.

Pop ups, emails and texts offering “Great” deals: Almost a quarter of Brits who were scammed, ended up booking what they thought was a good deal yet ended up booking through an unsafe website.

Advice: If it’s too good to be true, the chances are it probably is. Don’t let the holiday excitement get the better of you and click on random pop ups, reply to unsolicited emails or click on links in emails or texts which seem to show great deals. Always take the time to do due diligence into the site you’re booking from. Does it have good reviews? Is it ABTA protected? These are questions people need to be asking to ensure they’re booking through a reputable platform.

Fake listings: A number of consumers have been duped into booking a listing that wasn’t genuine.

Advice: While this is rare, it can happen. As well as double checking simple things like descriptions matching pictures, minimise the risks of falling for a scam by booking through a trusted platform. They will have thorough processes in place to ensure that all listings are verified and authenticated so it’s important to avoid just going for the first thing that your search engine presents.

Using unsecured networks: Almost half of us don’t check how secure our internet connection is when we’re away, giving cybercriminals an opportunity to pounce and potentially access data on your device.

Advice: From accessing online banking to social media, we do so much online and some of it involves sensitive information. Avoid sharing anything sensitive over an unsecured network. If you absolutely must conduct transactions on a public Wi-Fi connection use a virtual private network (VPN) to help keep your connection secure.