Holiday Booking Fraud: What is it and how to avoid it?
Each year holiday booking fraud results in unsuspecting holiday makers being conned out of millions of pounds, but what is it, and how can you protect yourself?
Holiday booking fraud is when you are tricked in to paying money for a holiday, accommodation or flights which don’t exist.
Fraudsters can set up fake websites and advertising and also conduct bogus phone calls and email scams which leave their victims without a flight and/or accommodation, or potentially arriving in a foreign country to discover that they have nowhere to stay.
The most common types of booking fraud are: Holiday accommodation, airline tickets, sports and religious trips, timeshares and holiday clubs.
Now you know what it is, how can you avoid it?
ABTA have joined forces with City of London Police, Action Fraud and Get Safe Online to raise awareness of the problem and offer the following advice.
Top Tips to Avoid Holiday Booking Fraud
- 1. Stay safe online: Check that you are on the official website for the holiday company you are looking at. Make sure that the address hasn’t been altered slightly eg. from .co.uk to .org. When entering your personal or payment details online, make sure the site you are booking on is secure by having a padlock in the address bar and address beginning ‘shttp’ or ‘https’.
- 2. Look out for false advertising: Many fraudsters use villa rental websites to advertise villas or apartments which don’t exist. Most scams occur on sites where owners advertise their property directly. To be safe avoid using these sites and book with a bonded company who will arrange a contract on your behalf.
- 3. Do your research: Look for reviews about the company and read more than one. If there has been problems other people are likely to have posted their experiences online.
- 4. Look for the logo: Look for an ABTA or ATOL logo and verify that they are legitimate. Go to ABTA’s website to verify a company’s ABTA membership or the CAA website to check whether a company is an ATOL holder.
- 5. Never pay any money directly into someone’s bank account. You have no protection if you do this. Instead pay by credit or debit card.
- 6. Check the paperwork: Check receipts, invoices and terms and conditions carefully and be very wary of any company’s which don’t provide any. If signing up for a timeshare or holiday club get the contract looked at by a solicitor.
- 7. Trust your instincts: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- 8. Be careful with passports and visas: British nationals will require visas to visit many different countries around the world. These are usually available online from that country’s embassy website for a small fee. However, you should be aware, there are many official looking websites out there which charge an additional fee to process a visa application, they don’t add anything of value to the process and can even make it take longer. The correct website addresses can be found on the Foreign Office’s travel advice website.
What to do if you have been a victim of fraud
Report the incident to Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk or speak to a specialist adviser on 0300 123 2040.
If you paid for the holiday using your credit card, report the fraud to your card issuer.
If you have any information on a crime and you would prefer not to speak to police, you can call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit www.crimestoppers-uk.org.