Planning a holiday is one of life’s most exciting joys, so it can be heartbreaking to discover that your big break doesn’t really exist and you have in fact been the victim of a scam.
Would-be holidaymakers and travellers were conned out of £7 million by fraudsters last year, according to Action Fraud. The average amount lost was £1,380 per person – but as well as the financial cost, victims have also reported the significant emotional impact caused by this crime.
More than half (53%) of crimes reported related to the sale of airline tickets. The next most common fraud related to the sale of accommodation. What’s more, the total losses relating to travel fraud might be even higher, with many victims too embarrassed to report what happened.
As holiday season approaches, Action Fraud has teamed up with Abta – the Travel Association and Get Safe Online – to highlight the warning signs of travel-related fraud. Here are some tips…
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 check the company’s credentials. If a firm is defrauding people, there is a good chance that consumers will post details of their experiences, and warnings about the company.
Think: is it too good to be true?
It’s easy to let the excitement of what looks like a “dream holiday” at a bargain price cloud your judgment. Be wary if you’re contacted out of the blue by a travel agent or firm you’ve never dealt with before, offering a trip away at a very low price.
Fraudsters will often use fake online adverts, bogus sales calls, emails and texts offering very cheap deals.
Look for the logo
Check whether the company is a member of a recognised trade body such as Abta. If you have any doubts, you can verify membership of Abta online.
Wherever possible, pay by credit card and be wary about paying directly into someone else’s bank account.
If it’s a scam, the fraudster may completely cut off contact after their victim has paid up – and the victim later discovers the holiday they’ve been offered doesn’t exist.
Generally speaking, people paying by credit card have protections under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act if something goes wrong with a purchase.
This means that it’s possible to put a claim to the credit card company if you don’t get the goods or service you purchased with your card.
Watch out for holiday club fraud
This may happen when a fraudster contacts you out of the blue, perhaps on the phone or by offering you a scratchcard in the street, and tells you you’ve won a “free” holiday.
To claim the “prize”, victims may be asked to watch a presentation, often in a fancy hotel, to lean more about their holiday.
After signing a contract it turns out the holiday isn’t free and the victim finds out they are expected to pay for flights and other extras.
Check the paperwork
You should study receipts, invoices, as well as terms and conditions. Be very wary of any companies that don’t provide any at all.
When booking through a holiday club or timeshare, consider getting the contract thoroughly vetted by a solicitor.