MILLIONS LOST TO HOLIDAY FRAUD
7th May 2019 | Jane Peel, Chief Reporter
Last modified on June 2nd, 2020
Fraudsters stole more than £7M in scams targeting travellers booking online accommodation and flights for ski and summer holidays in 2018.
The latest figures are revealed in a report published by the UK travel association, ABTA.
More than 5,000 people reported that they had lost money to the criminals last year – over 600 more than the previous year.
The average amount lost was £1,380 per person.
ABTA believes the figures could be far higher, with many victims too embarrassed to report they’ve been scammed.
The frauds are aimed at those booking both winter and summer holidays.
PlanetSKI carried out an investigation in Autumn 2017 into scam ski chalet companies and online ski shops.
ABTA has joined forces with Action Fraud and Get Safe Online to warn the public about the dangers posed by holiday booking fraud and to give advice on how to avoid getting caught out.
“ABTA sees at first-hand the damage caused by travel fraudsters after customers find out their much anticipated holiday or trip to visit family and friends does not actually exist,” said Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive.
“This is why ABTA, Action Fraud and Get Safe Online work together to make people aware of the steps they can take to avoid falling foul of a holiday scam.
“The cost to victims is not just financial; this crime causes very real emotional distress.
“Fraudsters are using increasingly sophisticated methods to target destinations and times of year when demand is high and availability limited, as they know people will be looking for good deals.
“As victims often find out just before they travel or even in resort that they have been defrauded, it can then be very difficult and expensive to obtain a legitimate replacement booking compounding the financial costs and emotional distress suffered by victims.”
The figures have been compiled by Action Fraud and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.
More than half – 53% – of the crimes in 2018 related to the sale of airline tickets.
The largest individual loss – of more than £425,000 – was reported in August 2018.
The next most common fraud – at 25% – related to the sale of accommodation.
Tony Neate of Get Safe Online said the alarming figures should not stop people from booking online.
“Instead, we urge people to take some time before booking a holiday to read through our safety tips and familiarise themselves with the small changes they can make to ensure they don’t get caught out by cyber criminals.
“Customer reviews are invaluable but don’t rely on just one review, research thoroughly.
“Look out for companies that are members of professional bodies such as ABTA and be wary of paying a private individual by bank transfer, even if you are offered a discounted rate.
“Paying by credit card will offer you much more protection from fraud.
“Finally, trust your instincts, don’t get rushed into making impulsive decisions if something doesn’t feel quite right.”
Get advice on staying safe when booking or researching travel online.
ABTA has a full list of tips to avoid becoming a victim of fraud.
MAIN PHOTO: A genuine ski chalet advertised on a scam website.