ABTA Warning: Beware of Holiday Booking Scams

Added 05/01/2017

ABTA is warning holidaymakers about the risks of booking a holiday with a fraudulent company.

January is one of the busiest times of the year for booking holidays, as many people beat the winter blues by planning a summer holiday and ABTA are concerned about people falling victim to a rising number of fraudulent companies who operate fake websites or are non-compliant.

Don’t let a too good to be true deal cloud your judgment; making a few simple checks can stop you from falling for a scam.

ABTA has compiled a list of warning signs to help you avoid scams and non-complaint companies:

Businesses not providing the required financial protection

In 2016 more than 100 travel businesses were identified by ABTA as selling package holidays without having proper financial protection in place, and referred to the relevant authorities. All package holidays sold in the UK should include protection, where holidaymakers are not only entitled to a refund or repatriation, should their travel company go out of business, but also other specific legal rights, should there be a problem with the holiday. People booking a holiday that is ATOL protected should always receive an ATOL Certificate.

Scam websites

Some websites are set up purely to defraud customers, and these scam or fraudulent websites are an area of growing concern for ABTA. On a legitimate website, there should be a locked padlock symbol in the browser window frame, which appears when you attempt to log in or register, or the web address should begin with ‘https://’.

Cloned websites

These are websites that are copies of a genuine site with subtle changes made. Fraudsters can clone legitimate websites but will change the last part of the web address, such as from .co.uk to .org. They can also produce a realistic-looking website, but with the spelling of the address slightly different from that of the authentic site. Check that the website address that appears in the top window is correct. If you are suspicious of a website, carry out a web search to see if you can find out whether or not it is fraudulent.

Payment via bank transfers

Be suspicious when the only payment option is a bank transfer. Not only is this an indication that no bank is prepared to provide credit card facilities, but if you are dealing with a scammer it will be virtually impossible to get your money back.

False credentials

Some fraudulent companies may falsely use logos of official bodies such as ATOL, or of organisations such as ABTA and IATA. If the company you are using claims to be a member of a trade association, you should be able to easily verify membership on the trade association’s website, for example on https://abta.com/find-a-member.>

What to do if you have fallen victim to a scam

If you have been the victim of a travel-related fraud can register your complaint to the police at Action Fraud. Report fraud and cyber-crime to Action Fraud online at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by speak to a specialist fraud and cyber-crime adviser on 0300 123 2040.