Brits keen to book a getaway after months of lockdown are being warned to watch out for cruel scammers.
Some of those targeted by scams only find out they’ve been conned when they arrive at the airport and are unable to check in.
Figures show almost a third of people hit by holiday fraud are duped by an advert on social media, with Facebook being the most common platform where people were targeted. Others were fooled by a fake website that looked like the real thing.
Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, is asking people to be vigilant when tempted to arrange a holiday.
Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said: “We are all more eager than ever to go on a holiday and relax with family and friends, following the coronavirus pandemic. However, criminals will stop at nothing when it comes to defrauding innocent people out of a well-deserved break and their hard-earned cash.
“Criminals are increasingly using more sophisticated ways to trick their victims, which is why it’s important that we all do our research when booking a holiday and making travel arrangements.
“Regardless of whether you’re planning on travelling abroad, or going on a domestic holiday this year, remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Ms Smith said that even during the previous financial year of April 2020-April 2021 – when the UK was either in lockdown or tiered restrictions and travel was very restricted – scammers managed to defraud people out of £2.2 million, an average loss of £1,242 per victim.
Figures show that most of the scams involved fake bookings for airline tickets. The majority of victims were aged between 19 to 50 years old (73 per cent).
Almost a third (32 per cent) of reports stated the victim had contact with the suspect after they responded to an approach or advertisement on a social media platform. Out of these reports, Facebook was the most common platform (62 per cent) where victims were defrauded.
Online booking platforms, such as Airbnb and Booking.com, were mentioned in almost 10 per cent of reports made.
Some victims (7 per cent) were duped by fake websites impersonating legitimate travel companies.
The victims had searched for flight tickets online and found a website they believed to be the company’s genuine website. In other cases, victims have used what they believe to be a real flight comparison website to search for flights.
In these cases, victims reported being contacted by someone purporting to be from the airline or flight comparison website to take them through the booking procedure and take payment.
Tops tip to avoid holiday 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 ensure the company is credible. If a company is defrauding people, there is a good chance that consumers will post details of their experience, and warnings about the company.
- Look for the logo: check whether the company is an ABTA Member. Look for the ABTA logo on the company’s website. If you have any doubts, you can verify membership of ABTA online on their website. If you’re booking a flight and want more information about ATOL protection, or would like to check whether a company is an ATOL holder, visit the CAA website.
- Pay safe: wherever possible, pay by credit card. You should avoid paying directly into a private individual’s bank account.
- Check the paperwork: you should study receipts, invoices and terms and conditions, and 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 a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.