Over 5,000 Brits have been subject to holiday booking fraud with around 7 million pounds stolen by fraudsters.
The Travel association ABTA has claimed that victims have lost an average of £1,380 each, after buying counterfeit tickets, accommodation and extra activities.
Its understood that fraudsters are becoming alarmingly updated and the methods that they are using now are much more complex and sophisticated as they target holiday makers who are looking for a good deal.
Reported cases jumped by nearly 20 per cent year on year, from 4,910 to 5,826. These were the findings released in a report from City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.
Types of fraud include:
- Holiday Accommodation – fraudsters are making full use of the internet to con holidaymakers by setting up fake websites, hacking into legitimate accounts and posting fake adverts on websites and social media.
- 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. In 2016, flights to Africa and the Indian sub-continent were particularly targeted, suggesting that fraudsters are targeting the visiting friends and family market and may well be making use of lack of knowledge of the strict regulations in place for the legitimate UK based travel industry.
- Sports and religious trips – a popular target for fraud due to limited availability of tickets and consequently higher prices.
- Timeshares and holiday clubs – the sums involved with this form of fraud are particularly high with victims often losing tens of thousands of pounds each.
Over a quarter (26 per cent) of those affected said the fraud had also had a significant impact on their health or financial well-being. Holiday fraud cases spike in peak periods like summer and December, with the most common age groups targeted between 20-29 and 30-39.
A number of people have come forward detailing there own experiences with these fraudsters such as Stephanie from London, who spent £410 on a flight to Nigeria only to turn up to Heathrow and find there was no such flight.
Fraudsters leave the helpless victims with huge losses not just monetarily but also mentally as Mark Tanzer said “This crime causes very real emotional distress,”. Victims just echo each others experiences and opinions on the fraudsters.” These people have no compassion.”
In case you are ever sceptical about booking a holiday or you feel uneasy , here are some tips that may help you;
Top tips to avoid becoming a holiday fraud victim
- Check the booking agent’s web address is legitimate and has not been altered by slight changes to a domain name – such as going from .co.uk to .org
- Don’t just rely on one review – do a thorough online search to check the company’s credentials
- Check whether the company is a member of a recognised trade body such as ABTA
- Wherever possible, pay by credit card and be wary about paying directly into a private individual’s bank account
- Study receipts, invoices as well as terms and conditions
- If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Source: ABTA, Action Fraud and Get Safe Online