ABTA Warns of Fake Holiday Websites
Now that Christmas is over, many of us will be turning our attention to summer holidays.
In fact, January is a very popular time to book your summer holiday – you not only have more options available to you as fewer people have booked, but chances are, you’re likely to pick up a bargain by booking early.
In your search for a bargain holiday, however, do be aware that there are an increasing number of fake holiday websites ready to con you out of your hard-earned cash.
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) and Action Fraud are warning consumers about the risks of booking flights and holidays on fake websites.
Recently, more than 12 consumers lost in excess of £60,000 purchasing non-existent skiing holidays from two fake websites. Although these websites have since been shut down, it doesn't take long for scammers to build new websites on new domains.
ABTA and Action Fraud have issued a list of guidelines to help holidaymakers spot fake websites:
- Too cheap, or much cheaper than the competition – ABTA warns that, although there is a little leeway in the price agents can charge for flights, if the price of flights or holidays are significantly cheaper than competitors, chances are you’re dealing with a fake website
- Fuzzy images - Trade association and credit card company logos that are too-low resolution and pixelated (fuzzy) could mean you're on a dodgy website
- Payment options – if the only payment option is a bank transfer, steer clear. This is a good indication that the banks aren’t prepared to provide credit card facilities and you’re dealing with a scammer. Plus, if you do part with your money via bank transfer, it will be virtually impossible to get your money back. Where possible, pay by credit card
- No issue of tickets – if you don't receive your tickets and you keep getting fobbed off when you ask for them, then it's likely that you’re dealing with a fake holiday company. If you do receive your paperwork, always check receipts, invoices, terms and conditions and tickets carefully
- Check review sites – chances are, if the ‘company’ has been defrauding people, some of those affected will post reviews about their experiences. Don't just rely on one good review on one website - reviews can be faked to check thoroughly
- Websites - you may have regularly used a particular website in the past, but make sure the domain has not been hijacked by checking that the URL has not been altered - perhaps a .co.uk domain changed to a .org
- Trade associations - look for a trade association logo, ABTA or ATOL for example, and verify the company's membership
John de Vial, ABTA Head of Financial Protection said: “Our consumer helpline has seen an increase in calls from members of the public who are either checking the validity of a suspicious website or, worse, have already paid by bank transfer and then been fobbed off when trying to get hold of their tickets. We want to make consumers aware of this problem and stop them from being ripped off in this way.”
Stay safe, do your checks before booking your holiday but, if you do fall foul of the scammers, always report a fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by speak to a specialist fraud and cyber-crime adviser on 0300 123 2040.