What it is
When you’ve paid a travel agent or agency, or someone offering short-term lodging for rent online, and find out that the holiday you’ve booked (or parts of it) doesn’t exist.
- Don’t reply to unsolicited emails, texts, social media or calls with holiday offers. Links and attachments in emails may lead to malicious websites or download viruses.
- Book a holiday directly with an airline or hotel, or through a reputable agent. Check whether they’re a member of the Association of British Travel Agents.
- If you decide to deal directly with the property owner or a letting agent, ask them questions about the booking, room, location and area. Don’t book on websites that don’t have a padlock icon (https) in the address bar, and be extra cautious if you’re asked to pay using bank transfer or cash; pay by credit or debit card if you can.
Spot the signs
- You’re contacted out of the blue by a travel agent or company you’ve never spoken to before, offering a holiday at a very low price.
- The details, pictures or address of the property or hotel on offer look suspicious, or independent website reviews aren’t favourable or don’t exist.
- You’re asked to pay using bank transfer or cash; be cautious or pay by credit or debit card if you can for extra protection.
How it happens
Fraudsters use fake online adverts, bogus sales calls, emails and text messages offering incredibly cheap rates to tempt you in to booking a holiday with them.
They may steal images of hotels or rented apartments from other travel websites and pass them off as their own.
You’re told to pay in cash or via a bank transfer, such as MoneyWise or Western Union, which can be difficult to trace and isn’t refundable.
You may find out at the airport that you’re not booked on the promised flight, or once you arrive the hotel or letting doesn’t have your name booked for a stay, or extras that were part of your booking – such as excursions or transport – aren’t included.
In some cases, the fraudster may completely end contact after you’ve paid and won’t confirm anything you’ve booked; the holiday they’ve offered doesn’t exist.
You may be offered the chance to go on a free holiday in return for watching a presentation; this is holiday club fraud.
How to report it