New figures show a growing number of people are falling victim nationwide to online holiday booking scams.
Findings from a report, compiled by the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, reveal the scale of reported crime, and expose common tactics used by
fraudsters who stole £7.2 million from almost 6,000 unsuspecting holidaymakers and other travellers in 2016.
The number of reported cases has risen almost 20 per cent year on year from 4,910 to 5,826 with popular scams targeting areas such as sports events, religious trips and timeshare
Campaign partners leading the fightback believe these figures are only the tip of the iceberg with many victims not reporting the fact that they have been defrauded.
The most common types of fraud relate to the sale of airline tickets, booking accommodation online as well as timeshare sales.
The average amount lost per person was approximately £1,200 and there is now a very clear indication that fraudsters are targeting the most popular travel periods.
Customers may be particularly vulnerable in 2017 as the overseas travel industry is reporting good early booking levels with accommodation and flights at a premium.
Mark Tanzer, the chief executive of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), said: “ABTA is regularly contacted by members of the public who have been caught out by increasingly sophisticated travel related frauds.
"We know at first-hand that the loss and shock of finding that your flight or holiday accommodation has not been booked can be very significant.
Steve Proffitt, the deputy head of Action Fraud, the national cyber-crime unit run by the City of London Police, said: “Action Fraud has seen a consistent rise in the number of holiday fraud reports made over the past five years.
"We recommend that people are thorough when researching their travel arrangements and book directly with an airline or hotel, or through a reputable agent."
Tony Neate, of Get Safe Online, the not-for-profit organisation promoting online safety, said: “Holidays are something we all look forward to. They’re a chance for us to switch off, relax
and spend time with our family and friends.
"Unfortunately, as the latest figures show, they are also the perfect opportunity for cyber criminals to swindle unsuspecting victims out of their hard-earned money – in the thousands in some cases.
"Holidays are big-ticket items for many of us, so it’s important that you take extra care when booking your holiday or flights online. Always do as much research as you can about the
organisation you’re booking through and ensure that they are a reputable travel operator that is a member of a recognised trade body like ABTA."
"By booking in haste you could not only risk losing a huge amount of money, but also disappoint family and friends when it comes to that long-awaited escape.”
*Tip issued by the partner agencies include:
*Check the web address you are using is legitimate and has not been altered by slight changes to a domain name – such as going from .co.uk to .org
*Do a thorough online search to check 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.
*Check whether the company is a member of a recognised trade body such as ABTA. If you have any doubts, you can verify membership of ABTA online, at www.abta.com.
*Never pay directly into a private individual’s bank account. Paying by direct bank transfer is like paying by cash – the money is very difficult to trace and is not refundable. Wherever
possible, pay by credit card or a debit card.
Victims should contact Action Fraud via www.actionfraud.police.uk while expert advice is also available via www.getsafeonline.org/shopping-banking/holiday-and-travel-booking/