A new report has revealed that more than £7 million has been stolen by fraudsters from unsuspecting holidaymakers.
ABTA The Travel Association, Action Fraud and Get Safe Online are joining forces to warn holidaymakers about holiday fraud. Over 5,000 people reported to Action Fraud, the national fraud and cyber-crime reporting centre, they had been the victim of holiday fraud. With such huge amounts of money involved, the reporting service wants to arm members of the public with information and advice on how to spot and avoid travel fraud. The report which has been compiled by Action Fraud, details the most commonly targeted areas of travel and the methods used by fraudsters to scam holidaymakers.
More than 5,000 people reported to Action Fraud that they had lost a total of just over £7 million to holiday and travel related fraud. This is an increase on last year when 4,382 people reported losing £6.7 million.
ABTA, Action Fraud and Get Safe Online want to highlight the ‘significant emotional impact’ caused by this type of crime. They also fear that the figures relating to travel fraud may be much higher, as many victims feel to embarrassed to report it to authorities.
In 2018 over 5,000 cases of holiday and travel booking fraud were reported to Action Fraud. The most common frauds were:
Airline Tickets: As well as flights relating to holidays, fraudsters particularly target the visiting friends and family market with flights to Africa and the Indian subcontinent dominating the list of affected destinations. The campaign partners believe that fraudsters may be exploiting lack of knowledge of the strict UK regulations in place governing the sale of airline tickets.
Accommodation Fraud – Fraudsters are using increasingly sophisticated methods, with very professional and convincing websites offering upmarket villas for rent. Although some of these villas are fictitious many actually exist, but are being offered by fraudsters without the legitimate owner’s knowledge. Spain and France are the two destinations most commonly targeted.
Religious trips – Haj trips are particularly attractive to fraudsters as the amounts of money involved are substantial with the average loss totalling almost £10,000 per reported case.
Head of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, said: “We all love to go on holiday to relax and spend time with family and friends, however as this year’s statistics show, holidays are also an opportunity for fraudsters to trick you out of your hard-earned money. There is a startling emotional impact of falling victim to holiday fraud bringing the feeling of embarrassment and disappointment to those we love, so we want to ensure that people feel better able to protect themselves. We know that fraudsters are increasingly using more sophisticated ways to trick their victims, which is why it is important that you do your research when making travel arrangements. If you think you have been a victim of fraud, contact Action Fraud.”
Tony Neate of Get Safe Online said: “Although it can seem alarming that reported holiday booking fraud is rising, it shouldn’t be a reason to stop you from booking your holiday online. Instead, we urge people to take some time before booking a holiday to read through our safety tips and familiarise themselves with the small changes they can make to ensure they don’t get caught out by cyber criminals. Customer reviews are invaluable but don’t rely on just one review, research thoroughly. Look out for companies that are members of professional bodies such as ABTA and be wary of paying a private individual by bank transfer, even if you are offered a discounted rate. Paying by credit card will offer you much more protection from fraud. Finally, trust your instincts, don’t get rushed into making impulsive decisions if something doesn’t feel quite right.”
Mark Tanzer ABTA Chief Executive said: “ABTA sees at first-hand the damage caused by travel fraudsters after customers find out their much anticipated holiday or trip to visit family and friends does not actually exist. This is why ABTA, Action Fraud and Get Safe Online work together to make people aware of the steps they can take to avoid falling foul of a holiday scam. The cost to victims is not just financial; this crime causes very real emotional distress. Fraudsters are using increasingly sophisticated methods to target destinations and times of year when demand is high and availability limited, as they know people will be looking for good deals. As victims often find out just before they travel or even in resort that they have been defrauded, it can then be very difficult and expensive to obtain a legitimate replacement booking compounding the financial costs and emotional distress suffered by victims. ”
Action Fraud, ABTA and Get Safe Online have published advice on how to avoid becoming a victim of holiday booking fraud – and on how victims should go about reporting it. This advice includes the top tips below:
- 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 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.
- 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, at abta.com.
- Pay safe: Wherever possible, pay by credit card and be wary about paying directly into a private individual’s bank account.
- Check 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, get the contract thoroughly vetted by a solicitor before signing up.
- Use your instincts: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Report it: Victims should contact Action Fraud via actionfraud.police.uk.
- Get free expert advice: For further advice on how to stay safe when booking or researching travel online, go to https://www.getsafeonline.org/shopping-banking/holiday-and-travel-booking/