Action Fraud has launched a national awareness campaign to urge the public to think twice before handing over money and personal information when booking holidays.
As travel restrictions become more relaxed, Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, is warning the public to remain vigilant against holiday fraud when booking flights or accommodation online.
In the financial year 2021/22, Action Fraud received 4,244 reports of holiday and travel related fraud – a substantial increase of over 120% when compared to the previous financial year.
Victims reported losing a total of £7,388,353 – an average loss of £1,868 per victim.
Action Fraud has launched a national awareness campaign today (Monday 23 May 2022) to urge the public to think twice before handing over money and personal information when booking holidays.
Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said:
“As the world begins to open up and travel restrictions relax further, it’s no surprise that more people are eager to get away and kick back with their loved ones after two years of lockdowns and restrictions.
“Unfortunately, we know that as demand for holidays soar, so does the number of scams and criminals are always finding new ways to catch people out and make them part with their hard earned cash.
“When booking a holiday here or abroad, it’s so important to do your research before handing over any money or personal details. Trust your instincts and remember, if a deal looks too good to be true, then it probably is.”
Graeme Buck ABTA Director of Communications said:
“Over the years ABTA has seen the damage caused by travel fraudsters when devastated customers find out their holiday or trip to visit friends and family does not actually exist. The cost to them is not just financial; travel-related fraud crime also causes emotional distress and extreme disappointment.
“There is help available and you can protect yourself from these unscrupulous individuals by checking and following the tips and advice on abta.com.
“However, if are unlucky enough to fall victim, always report the crime to Action Fraud so that they can prevent other people from going through the same awful experience.”
Whilst many accommodation providers who make use of online booking platforms are legitimate, some criminals will use these platforms to defraud victims by advertising counterfeit accommodation.
Over 7% of victims 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 reported responding to an approach or advertisement on social media or using what they believed 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.
The fraudster may completely end contact after receiving payment or provide the victim with fake booking information.
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 as part of a package holiday 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, or call Police Scotland on 101.