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Travel fraud – 6 ways to avoid getting conned

Spoof websites, hacked accounts and fake ads are just some of the ways fraudsters are scamming millions of pounds from unsuspecting holidaymakers.

In 2014, an estimated £2.2million was stolen from the travelling public. The average loss was £889, although, in a timeshare fraud, one victim was conned out of £62,000.

Fake accommodation websites were the most common type of fraud, with holidaymakers turning up on holiday to find the villas and apartments they thought they had booked and paid for didn't exist, or had never been booked. One family paid £1,500 for a holiday let in Cornwall but, after driving five hours and further two hours of investigations, found that site they had booked through had been hacked and the real owner's details replaced with the scammer's.

Travellers were also caught out by spoof sites selling fake flights and issuing fake tickets, or no tickets at all – flights to Africa are often a target.

Holiday clubs where travellers are offered 'free' holidays and then duped in to purchasing non-existent timeshares are another popular scam.

Sporting and religious holidays are a huge market for fake holidays due to limited availability – the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, the Brazilian World Cup and trips to the Hajj in Saudi Arabia have all seen people pay for non-existent accommodation or tickets.

As with all things, when booking a holiday, it pays to do your research.

Here's a few tips to help you avoid getting caught out by the holiday scammers:

  1. Do your research – check reviews, don't rely on just one review, and be suspicious of lots of reviews posted on the same day. Do a thorough search of the company's name too.
  2. Check the web address – Google and other search engines often identify the 'official' site in the search results – always choose the official site. Check the address bar when entering the url or clicking on a link to ensure the domain name hasn't changed slightly – such as a going from a .co.uk to a .org.
  3. Pay safe – paying by credit card is the safest way to pay and offers protection for your purchase. Never pay by bank transfer as this offers no protection and is just like paying by cash.
  4. Look for logos – booking through a company that is a member of ABTA or ATOL offers protection, but make sure you verify their membership. You should also make sure you receive an insurance certificate for your flight (ATOL) and another for your accommodation (ABTA) or one that covers both. No separate certificate? Then there's no guarantee of your holiday. Irrespective of ABTA & ATOL bonding.
  5. Paperwork – always check receipts, invoices and terms and conditions thoroughly. Alarm bells should be ringing if you don't receive any confirmation of your booking. 
  6. Too good to be true – if something seems to good to be true, it probably is. If it doesn't feel right, don't book it.

Report fraud
If you become a victim of the holiday scammers, always report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or www.actionfraud.police.uk