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Tackling holiday fraud – look before you book

Fraudsters scammed travellers out of £1.5 million in 2012, with accommodation, group tours and airline bookings most vulnerable.

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ABTA – The Travel Association has launched a new campaign with the support of Get Safe Online, Action Fraud and the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) to warn the general public about the dangers posed by holiday booking fraud. New research by the NFIB shows close to 1,000 cases of holiday fraud reported in 2012 costing consumers approximately £1.5 million.

Holiday booking fraud is when consumers hand over money only to discover the holiday, accommodation or flight they paid for doesn’t exist, or the booking hasn’t been made. Fraudsters are scamming millions each year of victims using fake websites, false advertising, bogus phone calls and phishing emails.

Common types of holiday booking fraud:

  • Airline tickets – where a customer believes they are booking a flight and receives a fake ticket or pays for a ticket that never turns up. This is the most common type of booking fraud, accounting for 45% of holiday booking fraud reported to the Police in 2012.
  • Holiday accommodation – 33% of holiday fraud victims in 2012 were scammed by the fraudulent advertisement of holiday villas and apartments, with some arriving at their destination to discover they had nowhere to stay. A high percentage of cases were reported in Spain and in London during the Olympics. The rise of self-catering villa rental sites where owners advertise directly to the consumer has made this a common target for fraudsters.
  • Package holiday fraud – fraudsters like to target those booking group, sports and religious packages with deals and special offers. Major events in long-haul destinations are a particular target for fraudsters, such as the pilgrimage to the Hajj and major sporting events such as The Ashes. This is because these sorts of events are often expensive due to high demand so deals can be attractive and many travellers are booking on behalf of a group, meaning that the value of the booking is high.
  • Visa applications – particularly the ESTA visa requirement for the US, also appear to be an emerging target for fraudsters.

Download a guide to holiday fraud – which contains everything you need to know.

To report a fraud and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use our online fraud reporting tool.

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