Warning: Holiday booking scams jump by a third - here's how to avoid them
Holidaymakers should watch out as new data from Lloyds Bank shows travel-related scams have increased by a third over the year to March, with fraudsters targeting those booking package holidays, flights, hotels and caravans. Here’s how to try and avoid them - and what to do if you've been scammed.
The warning comes as data from the high street bank shows that fraud related to flight bookings was up 13% in the 12 months leading up to March, while scams linked to hotel bookings increased 18%. Package holiday scams rose 17% but the biggest jump involved caravan holiday bookings at 108%.
On average, victims lost £1,231 to hotel scams, while package holiday victims lost £2,342.
Lloyds offers some tips below, but you can also see our 30 ways to stop scams guide for more info.
Watch out for holiday adverts on social media and search engines
Lloyds says a lot of these scams begin with fake adverts displayed on search engines and social media. Many of these ads make people believe they are going to a trustworthy and legitimate website but it can often be a scammer impersonating genuine firms.
Some fraudsters also use real accommodation listing sites before contacting people and convincing them to transfer money directly to them rather than through the platform.
Make sure the company you're using is ABTA or ATOL protected
To avoid scams when making a booking for your package holiday, hotel, flights or caravan, Lloyds and MoneySavingExpert.com suggest following the tips below:
- Don't trust a deal that's offered directly to you out of the blue. Scammers put adverts for fake holidays on social media but can also directly contact customers by email or text pretending to be from a real company. If you've been personally contacted by someone (or a company) advertising a holiday then make sure to check it's legitimate as it may well be a scam.
- Scrutinise the company's contact details. Is there an address and a working phone number? Can you easily get through to customer service? Are they responsive? Is there an online chat? A lack of working contact details could indicate a scam.
- Check the firm is ABTA or ATOL protected. Take your time when placing a booking and ensure what you're purchasing is protected. If a company is ABTA or ATOL protected, then you should be financially protected if anything happens. See our Holiday rights guide for more info on ABTA and ATOL protection.
With ATOL, you can check it's legitimate by finding the reference number on it - this is usually four to five digits long and it may include a 'T' at the start - and then inserting this or the name of the travel company into the free ATOL database. Make sure you get an ATOL certificate when you book a protected trip.
The process is the same for ABTA as it is for ATOL, so you just need to input the five digit reference number or the company's name into the ABTA database.
- Protect how you pay. The safest way to pay for a holiday is via debit or credit card. If you're being asked to pay another way, such as via a bank or wire transfer, it could be a scam. If you pay this way and things go wrong, you're less likely to get your money back. Paying by credit card or debit card through a legitimate company will give you more rights. See our Section 75 guide and Visa, Mastercard & Amex chargeback guide for more info.
What do to if you've been scammed
- If you've already responded to a scam, end all further communication immediately.
- Call your bank directly and cancel any recurring payments – for speed and ease, you can alternatively call the new 159 hotline.
- Report the scam to the police through Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, or report a scam anonymously on the Action Fraud website. If you're in Scotland, report a scam through Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or on the Advice Direct Scotland website. You can also report scams to Police Scotland on 101.
- If you wish to seek further help, contact Citizens Advice Scams Action via the Citizens Advice website, or call its Scams Action helpline on 0808 250 5050.