Beware of the fraudsters

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

According to ABTA, Action Fraud and getsafeonline, over 5,000 people reported to Action Fraud that they had lost a total of just over £7 million to holiday and travel related fraud in 2018. That was an increase on 2017 when 4,382 victims reported losing £6.7 million.

cartoon of angry suitcase
Protect yourself against fraudsters © Dan Sperrin

The most common types of fraud related to airline tickets, accommodation and religious tourism.

As well as flights relating to holidays, fraudsters particularly target those visiting friends and family particularly those flying to Africa and the Indian subcontinent. It is thought that fraudsters may be exploiting lack of knowledge of the strict UK regulations in place governing the sale of airline tickets.

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.

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.

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, AITO or has an ATOL bond. It has been known for some fraudsters to claim ATOL ownership so check at https://publicapps.caa.co.uk/modalapplication.aspx?appid=2
  • If you have any doubts, you can verify membership of ABTA online, at www.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 www.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/

For a full list of tips to avoid becoming a victim of fraud, please see:  http://abta.com/fraud.

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