From April 2021 to April 2022, over 4,000 people reported holiday booking fraud according to Action Fraud, with over £7 million lost in total. So, we’ve asked our LV= travel team for their advice on avoiding holiday scams…
- The tell-tale signs that a holiday company isn't what it seems
- Why you should do your research before booking online
- What to do if you’re the victim of holiday booking fraud
The growth of the digital economy, allowing people to book everything online, has made it easy for fraudsters to exploit everything from airline tickets to online accommodation.
Where are you most at risk of holiday booking fraud?
Holiday booking fraud is when someone believes that they have paid for a genuine holiday or aspect of their holiday, but later finds out it doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, this type of fraud is becoming common in the UK, especially as people purchase more elements of their trip online.
Online, communication is conducted over email and/or instant messaging, allowing fraudsters to hide their real identity. However, the internet can also help you avoid being caught out, as you can thoroughly research any company you book with.
Fraudsters often target people going on long, more expensive flights to see family. Also, (ABTA) recorded a number of scams involving sporting events.
What are the tell-tale signs you're being targeted by a fraudster?
Fraudsters are becoming increasingly adept at creating sites that mislead people into thinking they're getting the real deal. However, alarm bells should ring if:
• You’re contacted by a company you’ve not heard of offering you a good deal
• You’re asked to pay by bank transfer or cash, rather than using your credit or debit card
• There are no independent reviews of the destination
What are the best steps to take to avoid holiday booking fraud?
It's ‘important to do your research when making travel arrangements', says Pauline Smith.
Here are five ways you can check them out:
• Look out for customer reviews and research their registered address – does it actually exist?
• Google the company name and search for articles online about the company being involved in this type of fraud
• Check the web address has not been altered slightly from a that of a reputable company’s
• Book flights and hotels directly, but first look them up on Google Maps, and call to check there’s someone at the other end of the phone
• If you’re booking directly with a property owner or letting agent, ask them questions about the booking, such as the type of accommodation, what the location is like, where the nearest restaurants and shops are, and verify them on Google Maps
Watch out, though – if the company is prepared to defraud consumers, they won't hesitate to fraudulently use a trade association name and logo on their website, or provide a false registration number, which makes the website look more official.
Pay using your credit or debit card, as your provider may offer you protection against fraud – it’s worth checking that they do. If the amount is over £100, Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act should give some protection.
It’s often safest to book with a UK-registered company. Different countries have different regulations but, generally, the UK requirements to protect customers are high.
What can you do if you're the victim of holiday booking fraud?
If you believe you’ve been a victim of fraud, or been contacted by a fraudster, visit Action Fraud.
Report the fraud to warn other holidaymakers – you could even write reviews online to prevent more people becoming victims.
While on holiday it’s important to remain vigilant – it’s easy to inadvertently become involved in a fraudulent scam if you’re not careful.
In 2017, ABTA called on holidaymakers to help them crack down on holiday sickness fraud. Claims management companies are offering people on holiday a financial incentive to say they became ill after eating at a restaurant or hotel. These companies are then making money when the restaurant or hotel’s insurance pays out.
• Don’t give your insurance details over to anyone else if you suspect they're involved in holiday sickness fraud.
• Always call your emergency assistance provider if you need to go into a medical facility for treatment.
• If you're genuinely ill and have had to cancel your trip, you may be able to claim on your travel insurance.
Holiday booking fraud can have a real financial and emotional impact, especially if you thought you’d booked the holiday of your dreams. But by researching every company you book with, and making sure they’re legitimate, you can have a holiday to remember - for all the right reasons.
Here are our top travel tips• Always check the web address is genuine and hasn't been altered by slight changes like switching from .co.uk to .org and make sure there are no spelling mistakes
• Read more than one review, and do a thorough online search to check the company's credentials. If a company is defrauding people there is a good chance that consumers will post details of their experiences, and warnings about the company.
• Check whether the company is a member of a recognised trade body like ABTA and displays their logo. You can verify membership of ABTA online
• Never pay directly into an owner's bank account. Paying by direct bank transfer is like paying by cash – the money cannot be traced and is not refundable. Where possible, pay by credit card or a debit card that offers the same protection.
• You should check all receipts, invoices and terms and conditions, and be very wary of any companies that don't provide any at all.
• Remember the golden rule, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
• Don't post on social media that you're going to be on holiday – this let’s fraudsters know you’re not home
• Buy currency before you travel – it can make planning your spending money much easier and help you avoid high rates or counterfeit money
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