- Holidaymakers looking for a great deal are an easy target for fraudsters
- Use our top tips to book a holiday online and avoid scams
- Discover how to report fraud so that the criminals can be stopped
With the summer holiday season now in full swing, last minute package deals, unbelievable offers on villas and promotions on cheap flights are everywhere – meaning people looking for a great deal are an easy target for holiday booking fraud.
Holiday booking fraud is when you hand over money only to discover that the holiday, accommodation or flight you've paid for doesn't exist. Fraudsters will often attract potential victims by promoting holiday package deals or flights at incredibly low prices or 'one time only' offers that are simply too good to pass up.
Holiday booking scammers are making thousands of pounds each year through fake websites, false advertising and scam phone calls or emails. As soon as the booking has been made, these fraudsters tend to 'vanish', leaving victims without a flight or holiday, or in the worst cases, stranded in another country with nowhere to stay.
In 2012, research by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) showed almost 1,000 cases of holiday fraud had been reported that year, costing consumers approximately £1.5m.
The research also revealed that fraudsters were most likely to target travellers booking airline tickets, package holidays (especially sports packages or religious holidays), self-catering villas and apartments – and even those applying for foreign visas.
To help protect our customers, we've put together some helpful hints for booking your holiday and avoiding holiday fraudsters.
Tips for booking a holiday online
- Do your homework – use trusted holiday review sites like TripAdvisor to search for more information about the holiday or company you're planning to book with.
- Make sure the company is a member of a recognised trade association such as ABTA – or that they hold an ATOL, which stands for Air Travel Organiser's Licence (every UK travel company which sells air holidays and flights is required to hold one).
- Check the website address in the address bar of your browser. Fraudsters are able to clone legitimate websites but you'll know something's not quite right if the web address isn't showing as expected.
- To make sure the site you are booking on is secure, look for a padlock in the address bar and that the website URL begins with 'shttp://' or 'https://'.
- Avoid sites which request payment by direct bank transfer – reputable holiday booking sites won't ask you to pay via this method.
- If you're able to, use a credit card to book (or a debit card that offers protection). You may need to pay a surcharge for this but at least you'll have an additional element of protection if things go wrong.
- Some travel insurance policies may protect you for unexpected losses if any part of your travel plans collapse due to a company going out of business.
- Lastly, read the terms and conditions to find out exactly what you are buying and don't be afraid to ask questions. If you're dealing with a legitimate company, they will be able to answer all your queries quickly and easily.
General tips to protect yourself from holiday fraud
- Avoid responding to unsolicited calls, texts or emails which offer holidays at incredibly low prices.
- Never feel pressured to make a booking for fear that you will miss out on this 'low price' opportunity. If you have never used the company before, take your time to do some online research to ensure they are reputable.
- Once you've made a flight or hotel booking through a travel company, contact the hotel or airline directly to check that your booking is in their system.
What to do if you have been a victim of holiday fraud
It's important to report a fraud so that the criminals can be stopped and that others don’t fall victim to the same scam. If you think you've been affected by holiday fraud, report it on the Action Fraud website or speak to a specialist adviser on 0300 123 2040.