Holidays are on the horizon, but don’t fall victim to fraudsters as you rush to book a break.
Summer holidays should get the green light this week as the Government is expected to lift its ban on ‘non-essential’ travel abroad and allow air corridors with some countries for quarantine free travel.
But our scramble to book one may mean rich pickings for fraudsters, with UK Finance, the voice of the banking and finance industry, warning we must be on our guard against holiday scams.
Since lockdown started consumers have lost nearly £5 million to Coronavirus related scams, according to Action Fraud, so here’s how to stay one step ahead when booking your trip.
Never pay by bank transfer
A growing demand for ‘staycations’ has seen criminals cash in with fake online listings for caravans and motorhomes and payment by bank transfer.
“Vehicles are advertised at attractive prices, tempting people into believing they’re getting a good deal, when in reality they simply don’t exist or don’t arrive once paid for,” warns Katy Worobec, Managing Director Economic Crime at UK Finance.
With this scam, buyers are told they can’t ‘view’ vehicles due to ‘lockdown restrictions’ and asked for payment by bank transfer. This offers zero protection if things go wrong; as it’s just like handing cash to a stranger.
Get website savvy
If you find a website with the perfect apartment to rent, do some detective work before booking.
“Websites may look similar to the genuine organisation’s but subtle changes in the URL can indicate that it’s fraudulent”, warns Katy Worobec.
Always check the website address starts with ‘https’ and look for the padlock symbol at the top of the webpage; signs that the website is secure.
“Always use the secure payment option, recommended by reputable websites, and be wary of requests to pay by bank transfer”, says Katy Worobec.
Check company credentials
“Book a package deal, and you get financial and legal protection if anything goes wrong with the holiday,” says Emma Coulthurst from TravelSupermarket.
With flight based packages look for ATOL accreditation. This is a financial protection scheme run by the Civil Aviation Authority and means your money back if the holiday company goes bust.
But always double check any advertised ATOL accreditation is genuine. You can do this on the CAA website.
For cruise, coach or rail trips, check for ABTA protection, which covers UK tour operators and travel agents. Look for a membership number and check this back on the ABTA website.
Protect your booking
“Paying by credit card means legal protection if the company you’re buying from goes bust or doesn’t deliver what it’s promised,” says Emma Coulthurst.
This comes under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, and applies when buying something that costs between £100 and £30,000. Means you can ask your card company for a full refund, and protection applies even if you only put a small deposit on the card.
However, you usually need to buy ‘direct’ to be assured of ‘section 75’ protection, say buying flight tickets from an airline website. Break the chain, say buying through a third party; like a travel agent, and section 75 may not apply.
Paying by debit card also offers protection; but unlike credit card payment, it’s not enshrined in law. If you’ve got a problem; ask your bank to ‘reverse’ the transaction by doing a ‘chargeback’.
Think you’ve been scammed? Report the crime to Action Fraud using its website or call 0300 123 2040.
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