A recent report compiled by Action Fraud has found that British holidaymakers lost almost £7 million last year in travel-related scams. Over 5,000 people were affected, each losing £1,380 on average.
The figures are likely to be even higher than reported as the report warns that many victims will have been too embarrassed to report their fraud cases.
The sale of airline tickets accounted for more than half of the total crimes reported with scammers exploiting a new wave of bargain hunters, keen to take advantage of incredible deals through social media and fake websites.
What are the most common types of holiday fraud and how can you avoid being scammed?
1. Airline tickets
If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Only buy your airline tickets from reputable sources and don't be tempted to buy exclusive or limited offer tickets from sources you don't recognise. There are strict rules that govern the sale of airline tickets so make sure you do your research. The Civil Aviation Authority offers some additional information on their website if you are unsure.
You should always pay on credit card if you have one as you will benefit from additional protection. Under section 75 of the consumer credit act, the credit card company is jointly responsible for any breach of contract or misrepresentation by the company from which you've bought your goods. You can read more about section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act in our article Consumer Rights Act 2015 simplifies and strengthens consumer law.
When booking accommodation, always try and book through a reputable travel agent as your booking will be fully ATOL protected. Fraudsters will often create convincing looking websites for properties that do not exist and will even create copy-cat websites to rent out legitimate villas, but without the owner's consent. If you insist on booking directly then you should do the following to ensure you don't get caught out.
- Check how long the property has been advertised. Often you can check to see how long the property has been on the company's website and if the property has its own website, you should look to see how long it has been live.
- Check online reviews with reputable review sites such as TripAdvisor or Trust Pilot. Make sure to check that the reviews are genuine (as they can easily be faked). Ensure that the reviews are unique, that they don't contain lots of grammatical errors and that they are well balanced, with a good mix of positive and critical reviews.
- Check the location of the property online using google maps. Look at the street view and compare it to photo's posted online.
3. Package holiday fraud
Package holiday fraud is a lucrative scam for fraudsters where they create enticing deals for expensive sports packages and religious pilgrimages. The best way to avoid these type of scams is to ensure you book through a reputable travel agent that is ATOL protected. ATOL stands for 'Air Travel Organisers Licence' and you should never simply trust the wording on a website. Question the person you are dealing with and get them to confirm exactly what ATOL protection you have.
Top tips to ensure you don't fall victim to online fraudsters?
Follow our top tips to ensure you and your family do not fall victim to holiday fraud
- Be safe online - check the web address and ensure the domain name doesn't change from .co.uk to .org as you navigate the pages
- Research - thoroughly research the destination/hotel/company by checking multiple reviews from various sources
- Ensure the company you are booking through is registered to a trade body - look for a registered trademark logo such as ABTA
- Pay by credit card where possible - Paying by credit card ensures you are covered by section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act
- Listen to your instincts - if something seems too good to be true, it probably is
- Keep your money safe while abroad - check out our articles The best way to take money on holiday and Revolut review - is it the best way to take money abroad