The City of London Police along with ABTA and Get Safe Online are joining forces this week to warn the public about the dangers posed by holiday booking fraud.

Findings from a new report, compiled by the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, reveal the scale of reported crime, and expose common tactics used by fraudsters who stole £7.2 million from almost 6,000 unsuspecting holidaymakers and other travellers in 2016.

Types of holiday booking fraud

In 2016 5,826 cases of holiday booking fraud were reported to Action Fraud. The most common types of fraud related to:

  • Holiday Accommodation – Fraudsters are making full use of the internet to con holidaymakers by setting up fake websites, hacking into legitimate accounts and posting fake adverts on websites and social media.
  • 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. In 2016, flights to Africa and the Indian sub-continent were particularly targeted, suggesting that fraudsters are targeting the visiting friends and family market and may well be making use of lack of knowledge of the strict regulations in place for the legitimate UK based travel industry.
  • Sports and religious trips– a popular target for fraud due to limited availability of tickets and consequently higher prices.
  • Timeshares and holiday clubs – The sums involved with this form of fraud are particularly high with victims often losing tens of thousands of pounds each.

Top tips to avoid becoming a travel fraud victim 

The City of London Police, ABTA and Get Safe Online have published advice on how to avoid becoming a victim of holiday booking fraud – and on how victims should go about reporting it. This advice includes the top tips below:

  • Stay safe online:  Check the web address is legitimate and has not been altered by slight changes to a domain name – such as going from .co.uk to .org
  • Do your research: Don’t just rely on one review – do a thorough online search to check the company’s credentials. If a company is defrauding people there is a good chance that consumers will post details of their experiences, and warnings about the company.
  • Look for the logo: Check whether the company is a member of a recognised trade body such as ABTA. If you have any doubts, you can verify membership of ABTA online, at www.abta.com.
  • Pay safe: Never pay directly into a private individual’s bank account. Paying by direct bank transfer is like paying by cash – the money is very difficult to trace and is not refundable. Wherever possible, pay by credit card or a debit card.
  • Check paperwork: You should study receipts, invoices as well as terms and conditions. Be very wary of any companies that don’t provide any at all. When booking through a Holiday Club or Timeshare, get the contract thoroughly vetted by a solicitor before signing up.
  • Use your instincts: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 
  • Report it: Victims should contact Action Fraud via www.actionfraud.police.uk.
  • Get free expert advice: For further advice on how to stay safe when booking or researching travel online, go to https://www.getsafeonline.org/shopping-banking/holiday-and-travel-booking/

For a full list of tips to avoid becoming a victim of fraud please see:  http://abta.com/fraud.