£6.7 million lost to holiday booking fraud
Holidaymakers warned about fake airline tickets and online accommodation
The new report, compiled by the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, reveals the scale of reported crime, and exposes common tactics used by fraudsters.
The visiting friends and family market is particularly attractive to fraudsters offering fake flight tickets and package arrangements. Fraudsters may also be targeting individuals travelling home to visit family in time for public or religious holidays.
Where destinations were reported by victims, 54% said they had been intending to travel to Africa and 24% to Asia.
The average amount lost per person was over £1,500, an increase of 25% year on year.
The most common types of fraud relate to the sale of airline tickets (47%) and accommodation booking (38%).
In many cases the fraudsters hack into accommodation websites and ask to be paid directly. But as soon as payment is made, they disappear.
4,700 people told Action Fraud that they had been the victim of a travel related fraud in 2017 though the three campaign partners believe that the actual figure is much higher, with many victims not realising that they should always report the fraud to the police.
“I was petrified”
Last May, legal secretary Georgia Brown tried to book a holiday in Amsterdam for herself, her partner Jamie, and some friends.
She spotted an advert on an accommodation website, where the owner of the apartment was asking for a deposit of £915.
She corresponded with the man by email, and then sent the money off by bank transfer.
But she never heard from him again.
"At the time I was petrified. I thought someone had hacked into my bank account. It was really scary," she said.
She was also critical of the booking site involved.
"I just don't understand how this person was allowed to advertise on the website."
Georgia Brown eventually got her money back through her bank.
These individual losses are substantial, but this form of fraud also has other severe effects with almost half (2,245) of victims saying that it also had had a significant impact on their health or financial well-being.
Most worryingly of all, 575 people said the impact on them was so severe that they had to receive medical treatment or were at risk of bankruptcy.
Tony Neate of Get Safe Online, said: “It can be quite tempting to get lured in by the offer of a cut price flight or a deal on accommodation when you are caught up in the excitement of booking a holiday.
“Small steps can stop you getting caught out by a holiday scam such as researching the company you are booking through, especially ones that aren’t mainstream operators.
“Check well known review sites too so you can see what previous customers’ experiences have been and, where possible, pay by credit card to get extra protection in case anything does go wrong.”
Top tips to avoid becoming a travel fraud victim
The City of London Police, 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 arecognised
trade body such as ABTA. 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 documentation: You should study 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 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 visit http://abta.com/fraud