March 4th 2014
Get Safe Online has joined forces with ABTA and The City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) to warn the general public about the dangers posed by holiday booking fraud.
Findings from a report compiled by the NFIB reveal the scale of the crime and expose common tactics used by fraudsters who stole an estimated £7million from unsuspecting holidaymakers and other travellers in 2013.
The 2014 report reveals that over a 12 month, period over 4500 cases of holiday booking fraud were reported. The most common types relate to:
– Holiday accommodation – According to the report almost a third (30%) of holiday fraud victims in 2013 were scammed by the fraudulent advertisement of holiday villas and apartments, with some arriving at their destination to discover they had nowhere to stay.
– 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. This is the most second most common type of booking fraud, accounting for 21% of holiday booking fraud reported to the police in 2013. Average losses are more than £1000 per victim, with flights to West Africa a particular target.
– Package holidays – particularly group, sports and religious packages. The report highlights the Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia and major sporting events such as the Ryder Cup as particular targets for fraudsters.
These types of package holiday fraud accounted for 17% of reports in 2013. In 2014, packages for the Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games in Scotland, and travel to the World Cup in Brazil, may prove a target.
A 2013 YouGov poll for ABTA revealed that one in ten consumers do 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), asking friends and family for recommendations, or running a web search.
Top safety tips
Get Safe Online, ABTA and the NFIB have published advice on how to avoid becoming a victim of holiday booking fraud – and on how victims should go about reporting it, including these top tips:
– Do your research: Don’t just rely on one review, do a thorough online search to ensure 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, online
– Look for the logo: Check whether the company is a member of a recognised trade body such as ABTA. You can verify membership of ABTA online, at www.abta.com
– 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
– 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 beware 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
Tony Neate, our CEO, said: “Going on holiday is one of the most enjoyable parts of the year, making it all the more devastating if you find yourself arriving at the airport or hotel to find your ticket isn’t valid. There are some simple steps people can take to reduce the chance of becoming the next victim of holiday booking fraud. The most important thing being to do your research! By this I mean checking a range of online reviews of the holiday you are about to book and that the company you are booking with is a member of a recognised trade association. If you’re satisfied it is legit, make sure you use a credit card to pay as it offers more protection if anything goes wrong. Likewise, check the site is secure before paying by looking out for a padlock symbol in the browser window frame and ‘https://’ at the beginning of the web address.”
Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive of ABTA, said: “Fraudsters are conning unsuspecting holidaymakers and travellers out of thousands of pounds each year – leaving them out of pocket or stranded with nowhere to stay through fake websites, false advertising, bogus phone calls and email scams. As well as financial loss there is the huge emotional impact of being stranded abroad or unable to afford another holiday. I’d encourage everyone booking travel arrangements to be vigilant and follow our tips to avoid becoming a victim of this type of fraud.”
Detective Superintendent Peter O’Doherty, Director of NFIB, said: “The internet has changed the way we look for and book our holidays. Unfortunately it is also enabling fraudsters, using online offers of villas, hotels and flights that simply don’t exist or promising bookings that are never made, to prey upon those looking for that perfect break. We would urge those who have fallen foul of fraudsters to come forward by contacting Action Fraud to report their loss. By reporting it, victims are helping the NFIB to identify and effectively target those most responsible for this damaging and distressing crime.”