Holiday makers scammed out of £2.2 million: How to avoid becoming the next victim

Added 05/05/2015

After a report from City of London Police revealed that fraudsters stole an estimated £2.2 million from holiday makers in 2014, we’re sharing some tips on how to avoid becoming a victim.

The most common type of crime involved fraudsters creating fake websites or posting fake adverts for villas and apartments on popular accommodation sites.  Holiday makers then arrive in resort to find the apartments or villas they thought they had booked and paid for either didn’t exist or had not been booked.

The majority of victims had paid by bank transfer or cash, which means they have no way of getting their money back, but when holidays are involved it is not just the loss of money which is devastating.

Becoming a victim of holiday fraud is also emotionally devastating as a holiday can be booked well in advance and looked forward to for months; it can also be extremely stressful to you find yourself stranded abroad with nowhere to stay.

The most common types of holiday booking fraud in 2014 were:

• Holiday Accommodation - Fraudsters are 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.

• Sports and religious trips - Often an attractive target due to limited availability and consequent higher prices. In 2014 the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and World Cup in Brazil were targeted with numerous people having paid for non –existent accommodation or tickets.

• Holiday clubs - Victims were offered “free” holidays to entice them into attending a seminar where they were duped into buying a fraudulent timeshare.

How to avoid holiday fraud:

• 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 or ATOL.

• Pay safe - Never pay directly into an owner's bank account. Paying by direct bank transfer is like paying by cash – the money cannot be traced and is not refundable. Where possible, pay by credit card, (or a debit card that offers protection).

• Check paperwork - You should study receipts, invoices and terms and conditions, and be very wary of any companies that don’t provide any at all.

• Use your instincts - If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

• Report it - victims should contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via www.actionfraud.police.uk.