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Holiday Fraud - How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that wherever there’s a lucrative market, there are always going to be unscrupulous people who will try to exploit people for their own financial gain, and holidays is one such area.

Imagine your horror when you suddenly find out your longed-for holiday, the one you had spent a year saving for didn’t exist, even though you had booked and paid for it.

Unfortunately, this scenario is a reality for some people.

Holiday booking fraud is on the increase – the number of reported cases of holiday fraud has risen by 425% in the past year. The amount lost to fraudsters increased from £2.2 million in 2014 to £11.5 million in 2015; the average loss rose to almost £3,000 last year, compared to £889 in 2014.

Holiday fraud is more than just a loss of money, it’s the disappointment of a lost holiday - often at short notice - and the impact it can have on your health and wellbeing.

Last year, 4,910 cases of fraud were reported, with the most common type of fraud being the sale of airline tickets, particularly to destinations such as Nigeria, India and Pakistan. Other types of fraud are:

  • Holiday accommodation - bookings are made through fake websites; on legitimate sites that have been hacked, or via fake adverts on social media websites.
  • Sports and religious trips – these types of holidays are often targeted due to the high demand and limited availability. Take care if you’re booking trips to the European Football Championships in France or the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this year as these are expected to be targeted by fraudsters.
  • Timeshares and holiday clubs – 26% of all the money lost to holiday fraud in 2015 involved timeshare and holiday clubs, largely due to the sums of money involved – victims lost between £9,000 and £35,000 each.

Stay safe
If you’re booking a holiday online, take your time, don’t rush your booking, and follow the tips below:

  • Website
    Check the website you are on is the correct one; check the url and the domain extension. Fraudsters can hack sites and forward them to fake websites, seemingly the same, but which often have a different suffix, for example a .org instead of the usual .co.uk
  • Research the company
    When making a booking, always check the company you are booking with. Look for reviews, but don’t rely on just one review site
  • Look for logos
    Look for a logo that shows the company is a member of a recognised trade body, such as ABTA. You can also double-check a membership number on ABTA’s website 
  • Payment
    Always pay by credit card as this offers you more protection should something go wrong. Some debit cards offer protection, but always check whether yours does before payment. Never pay by direct transfer as this offers no protection – payments are difficult to trace and non-refundable. Always check that the website is secure before you part with your payment details – look for the padlock symbol or that the address starts with https://
  • Check paperwork & T&Cs
    Always check your paperwork, receipts, invoices and the terms and conditions. Be wary of companies that do not provide any paperwork. If you’re booking through a holiday club, get your contract vetted by a solicitor before signing
  • Too good to be true?
    If your deal looks too good to be true, chances are it probably is.

Always report holiday fraud
If you fall victim to the fraudsters, always report the fraud to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or online at www.actionfraud.police.uk