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UK holidaymakers affected by rise in booking scams
Holiday booking scams that affected British tourists rose by 19% last year, according to new research by Action Fraud, the fraud and cyber-crime reporting centre for the UK. They found that in 2016, there were 5826 reported cases of booking scams relating to holidays where tourists lost around £7.2 million in total; this amounts to around £1200 per person.
These latest findings show rises consistent with figures from the last five years that have been reported to Action Fraud. The most common scams surround timeshare sales, plane ticket purchases and online accommodation bookings.
These kind of scams can have a significant impact on the people they affect, not just financially but also health-wise. Around a quarter of the people who were scammed last year said that it had had a considerable impact, with many saying they needed medical treatment or they were at risk of bankruptcy.
Holidays, like ticketed events such as sport or music festivals, are targeted by scammers because they are seen as big-ticket items where people are willing to part with a significant amount of money. As a result, scammers are making use of fake websites as well as hacking into official accounts in an attempt to target potential victims.
Tony Neate of fraud prevention group Get Safe Online echoed that sentiment when he commented on Action Fraud’s findings, to say holiday bookings are; “the perfect opportunity for cyber criminals to swindle unsuspecting victims out of their hard-earned money”
In response to these latest figures, Get Safe Online, regulator Abta and the City of London police have launched a campaign to warn the public about holiday booking scams.
As scammers become more and more sophisticated, holidaymakers do need to heed the campaign and become much more vigilant to reduce the risk of falling victim to these kind of scams. Mr Neate advises researching the organisation that you are planning on booking with and ensuring that they are a member of a recognised trade body such as Abta.
Due to a lack of awareness of the strict regulations imposed on travel companies in the UK, it has been relatively easy for scammers to target holidaymakers. Many of the fake websites online claim that the best ways to pay are by bank transfer or cash when in actual fact, these payment methods make it harder for you to reclaim your money if you find out you have been scammed.
Five key areas to be aware of when booking a holiday include:
- Check the website and research the provider you are planning on booking with
- Make sure they are part of a regulated trade body, such as Abta or Atol. A logo should be on their website or you can search Abta for a list of their approved members.
- Pay by credit card where possible. This provides you with better protection to get your money back should you find out you have been a victim of a holiday booking scam.
- Don’t feel pressured into paying to get the best deal or by using a payment method such as cash or bank transfer.
- Check the paperwork you receive after booking. You should receive a confirmation document outlining travel arrangements and the money you have paid. You should get flight confirmations immediately, names should match those on the booking and check logos. Keep all paperwork relating to the booking for proof should you be a victim of one of these scams.
If you have been a victim of a holiday booking scam, report it to Action Fraud and/or contact your local police department. Also, if you paid for the holiday on your credit card, report the fraud to your card issuer as soon as possible.
For more information and advice, take a look at this leaflet from Abta.