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More than 5,000 travellers hit by booking fraud in 2018

More than 5,000 travellers hit by booking fraud in 2018

Fraudsters used holiday booking scams to steal more than £7 million from travellers last year, according to a new report.

Figures released by Action Fraud and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau show that over 5,000 people reported losing money to holiday and travel-related fraud last year, up from 4,382 victims who reported losing a total of £6.7 million in 2017.

Over half of the reported crimes related to the sale of airline tickets, while 25% was linked to the sale of accommodation.

As scams get clever, we need to too! See our 30+ Ways to Stop Scams.

How are fraudsters targeting holidaymakers?

The Action Fraud report found the most common types of holiday and travel booking fraud related to:

  • Airline tickets. As well as flights relating to holidays, the report says fraudsters particularly target the visiting friends and family market, with flights to Africa and the Indian subcontinent dominating the list of affected destinations. 

  • Accommodation fraud. The report says fraudsters are using increasingly-sophisticated methods, with very professional and convincing websites offering upmarket villas for rent.

    Although some of these villas are fictitious, many actually exist, but are being offered by fraudsters without the legitimate owner's knowledge.

  • Religious trips. The report warns trips for Haj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, are often targeted by fraudsters as the amounts of money involved are substantial. The average loss totals almost £10,000 per reported case.

Holiday booking fraud: what to watch out for

Action Fraud, the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) and Get Safe Online – an online safety website – have published guidance on how to try and avoid becoming a holiday fraud victim.

Key tips include:

  • Check the web address of any site you book through. Make sure the address is legitimate and not a slightly-altered version of a better-known domain name. Look out for minor adjustments to the URL (the web address which appears at the top of the page) – for example, going from .co.uk to .org.

  • Check reviews of the site you're booking on. 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 consumers will post details of their experiences and warnings about the company.

  • Look for a trade body logo. Check whether a company is a member of a recognised trade body, such as ABTA, which may give you extra reassurance. If you have any doubts, you can check who is a member of ABTA online.

I've been a victim of holiday booking fraud – what should I do?

If you think you've been a victim of a fraud, the first step is to report it to the police. This can be done via Action Fraud's website.

Getting your money back can be difficult, and how likely you are to get cash back depends on how you paid. If you paid by bank transfer, you should start by contacting your bank and explaining the situation, but the money could be very difficult to trace.

You're more likely to get money back if you've paid by card:

  • If you paid by credit card and your purchase was over £100, use Section 75. Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, if you pay on your credit card for something that individually costs more than £100, the card company's equally liable if the goods you buy don't materialise or aren't as described and you may be able to claim from it. See our Section 75 guide for more info and template letters.

  • If it's less than £100 or you paid via debit card, try chargeback. The chargeback scheme isn't a legal requirement, it's just a customer service promise. But it's worth trying anyway, and some banks will pay out. See our Chargeback guide for more info on how it works and template letters.

What does ABTA say?

ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer said: "ABTA sees at first hand the damage caused by travel fraudsters after customers find out their much-anticipated holiday or trip to visit family and friends does not actually exist.

"The cost to victims is not just financial, this crime causes very real emotional distress. Fraudsters are using increasingly-sophisticated methods to target destinations and times of year when demand is high and availability limited, as they know people will be looking for good deals."