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Do you live for your holidays? Many of us do, but every year, thousands fall victim to holiday fraud – paying for non-existent accommodation, flights or entire holidays. They fall for fake online advertisements, emails, social media posts, texts or phone calls.

With holiday fraud, either the accommodation doesn’t exist, or it does exist but has been advertised by a fraudster with no connection to the apartment, villa, caravan or chalet. Alternatively, the flight, package holiday, cruise or pilgrimage you think you’ve booked and paid for is non-existent, even though you may have received some kind of confirmation.

In many cases, unsuspecting victims actually turn up at their accommodation, airport or cruise terminal, only to find that they’ve been defrauded. It’s heart-breaking, as you’ve lost your holiday and your money. And if you’ve paid by bank transfer, banks are not obliged to cover your loss.

Play it safe: protect yourself from holiday and travel fraud

  • Thoroughly research flights, accommodation, cruises or package holidays to check that they are authentic, especially if not advertised by mainstream tour operators.
  • Check that accommodation really exists by finding on Google Maps and looking for third-party reviews and recommendations. If you can, call the owner/agent directly. If the number is not provided, email and request it.
  • Check reviews on TripAdvisor or similar sites.
  • Remember that paying by credit card means more chance of getting your money back if something goes wrong.
  • If paying online, type in the website address you know to be correct (instead of following a link), ensure the payment page is secure (starts with ‘https’ and has a locked padlock in the browser window frame).
  • Never pay for accommodation or travel by bank transfer even if you’re desperate to get away, or you’ve left it until the last minute to book. Also note that the recent abolition of credit card payment surcharges may give fraudsters the excuse to tell you that they cannot accept payment in that way.
  • Wherever possible, book holidays and travel through members of trade associations such as ABTA or ATOL, having confirmed membership on these bodies’ websites.
  • Be wary of unusually cheap holidays or unusually high deposits.
  • Always check terms and conditions prior to making any payment.
  • Keep confirmations and payment receipts, and check your bank and payment card statements for irregular entries.