Holiday fraud: look before you book

Get Safe Online is joining forces today with ABTA (the UK's leading travel association), Action Fraud and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) to warn you about the dangers posed by holiday booking fraud. Anyone booking a holiday either in the UK or abroad is at risk.

For information and advice on safe holiday and travel booking, click here

We all look forward to our holidays, and often they can cost a considerable amount of money, which most of us simply cannot afford to lose. Unfortunately, more and more people are being affected by holiday b fraud, which means that not only do you not get your holiday … you normally end up losing your money too. The holiday, accommodation or flight they paid for doesn’t exist, or the booking hasn’t been made.

In doing this, fraudsters con normal people out of thousands of pounds each year or leaving them stranded with nowhere to stay through fake websites, false advertising, bogus phone calls and email scams. New research by the NFIB shows close to 1,000 cases of holiday fraud reported in the UK in 2012, costing consumers approximately £1.5 million, figures that may represent just the tip of the iceberg.

The most common types of holiday booking fraud are:

– Airline tickets, where a customer believes they are booking a flight and receives a fake ticket or pays for a ticket that does not materialise.  This is the most common type of booking fraud, accounting for 45% of holiday booking fraud reported to the Police in 2012.
– Holiday accommodation: a third of holiday fraud victims in 2012 were scammed by the fraudulent advertising of holiday villas and apartments, with some arriving at their destination to discover they had nowhere to stay. A high percentage of cases were reported in Spain and in London during the Olympics. The rise of self-catering villa rental sites where owners advertise directly to the consumer has made this a common target for fraudsters.  A YouGov poll for ABTA shows that one in five adults say they have paid directly for private accommodation into the owner’s bank account, rising to a third of those with three or more children.
– Package holiday fraud – fraudsters like to target those booking group, sports and religious packages with deals and special offers. Major events in long-haul destinations are a particular target for fraudsters, such as the pilgrimage to the Hajj and major sporting events such as The Ashes. This is because these sorts of events are often expensive due to high demand so deals can be attractive and many travellers are booking on behalf of a group, meaning that the value of the booking is high.
– Visa applications – particularly the ESTA visa requirement for the US, also appear to be an emerging target for fraudsters.

ABTA's poll also reveals that one in ten consumers does nothing to research their travel company, such as checking if it is a member of a trade association such as ABTA (which has a code of conduct in place to protect consumers), not asking friends and family for recommendations, and not running a web search. In addition, a quarter are prepared to pay £200 or more as an upfront payment or deposit to secure their holiday booking, with 7% willing to put down £500 or more.

As well as checking out Get Safe Online's information and advice on safe holiday and travel booking here, you can:

Download ABTA's own advice leaflet
Read about some actual holiday booking scams that took place last year


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