As the Government intends to scrap many existing Covid measures, including holiday restrictions to some destinations, this has prompted many people to book a sunny escape. But Action Fraud are warning of holiday frauds and scams.
Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime, received 1,907 reports of holiday and travel related fraud in the 2020/21 financial year - a decrease of over 70 per cent when compared to the previous financial year. That’s encouraging news, right?
Well, although a decline in reporting was predicted due to the fact travel was banned for large periods of the year, losses by victims still totalled £2,205,251 during this time - an average loss of £1,242 per victim.
We have all endured a torrid time over the past two years, as Covid restrictions and lockdowns meant very few of us could leave the town we live in, never mind the country!
But now, as the Prime Minister looks to remove many - if not all - of the existing restrictions and effectively put an end to the pandemic here in the UK, theoretically speaking, it means we get our freedom back.
Some countries are also lifting restrictions, meaning movement between the UK and many favourite holiday destinations and tourist traps can resume.
But, caveat emptor. We know the restrictions are lifting, but so do fraudsters, scammers and con artists who are on the look out to destroy our collective sunny disposition.
Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said:
“We are all more eager than ever to go on a holiday and relax with family and friends, following the coronavirus pandemic. However, criminals will stop at nothing when it comes to defrauding innocent people out of a well-deserved break and their hard-earned cash.
“Criminals are increasingly using more sophisticated ways to trick their victims, which is why it’s important that we all do our research when booking a holiday and making travel arrangements. Regardless of whether you’re planning on travelling abroad, or going on a domestic holiday this year, remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Last year, criminals targeted unsuspecting holidaymakers booking airline tickets (56 per cent) and holiday accommodation (29 per cent). Almost three quarters of victims were aged between 19 to 50 years old (73 per cent).
Almost a third (32 per cent) of reports stated the victim had contact with the suspect after they responded to an approach, or advertisement, on a social media platform. Damn you social media, another love/hate topic in the world of cyber!
Out of these reports, Facebook was the most common platform (62 per cent) where victims were defrauded.
Online booking platforms, such as Airbnb and Booking.com, were mentioned in almost 10 per cent of reports made. Online booking platforms act as a platform for third parties to advertise accommodation.
Whilst many accommodation providers who make use of online booking platforms are legitimate, some criminals will use these platforms to defraud victims by advertising bogus accommodation.
Some victims (7 per cent) reported falling victim to suspects impersonating legitimate travel companies, including clone comparison websites, airline websites and holiday accommodation websites.
In some cases, victims have searched for flight tickets online and have found a website they believe to be the company’s genuine website. In other cases, victims have used what they believe to be legitimate flight comparison websites to search for flights.
In both instances, victims reported being contacted by someone purporting to be from the airline, or flight comparison website, to take them through the booking procedure and take payment.
Sadly, some victims have only become aware that they have been the victim of fraud when they arrive at the airport and are unable to check-in. That must be the most heart-crushing feeling: a family holiday that’s been the topic of such glee and excitement in the lead up, ripped away from you at the very last moment.
Tops tip to avoid falling victim to holiday fraud
There are measures you can put into practice to avoid being the victim of fraud. They include:
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 ensure the company is credible. If a company is defrauding people, there is a good chance that consumers will post details of their experience, and warnings about the company.
Look for the logo: check whether the company is an ABTA Member. Look for the ABTA logo on the company's website. If you have any doubts, you can verify membership of ABTA online on their website. If you're booking a flight and want more information about ATOL protection, or would like to check whether a company is an ATOL holder, visit the CAA website.
Pay safe: wherever possible, pay by credit card. You should avoid paying directly into a private individual’s bank account.
Check the paperwork: you should study receipts, invoices and terms and conditions, and 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 a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
For a full list of tips to avoid becoming a victim of fraud, please visit https://www.abta.com/tips-and-advice/planning-and-booking-a-holiday/how-avoid-travel-related-fraud.
If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.
Report all Fraud and Cybercrime to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or online. Forward suspicious emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Report SMS scams by forwarding the original message to 7726 (spells SPAM on the keypad).