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Beware of holiday fraud as travel restrictions ease

Action Fraud is warning the public to remain vigilant against holiday fraud, as travel restrictions begin to ease.

Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime, received 1,907 reports of holiday and travel related fraud in 2020/21 financial year – a decrease of over 70 per cent when compared to the previous financial year.

However, 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.

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.

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.

Tops tip to avoid falling victim to holiday fraud

  • 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.