20 Apr

Don't be a victim of holiday booking fraud

One of the most enjoyable aspects of taking a holiday is the anticipation, the excitement leading up to your break is an integral part of the experience.

So imagine finding out just before you are due to go away that the holiday you’ve been so looking forward to does not exist and the hard earned money you’d paid for it has been pocketed by a fraudster with little chance of getting it back. A very unpleasant thought, but unfortunately this is an experience that thousands of people in the UK have each year. A recent report by the City of London Police revealed that over £2 million was stolen by travel fraudsters in 2014, though the actual figure is likely to be much higher as many victims of fraud don’t bother to report it as either they think there’s little point in doing so, or they feel embarrassed that they were caught out in this way.

...it’s a truism but a valid one, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Fraudsters are clever, unscrupulous and can be very convincing. In 2014 the major growth in travel fraud was online, with reputable sites being “spoofed” by professional looking imitations and legitimate property owners’ accounts being hacked. A common factor was payment being requested by bank transfer, which is no different in principle than handing over cash. Would you give cash to a total stranger in a pub for something that they promised you would get a few months later? I suspect not.

Although many private villa owners now offer their properties for sale online, if you book them though a legitimate booking site you should have the facility to pay by credit or debit card. If then something does go wrong you will have redress through your credit card or your bank if you’ve used a Visa debit card, to get your money back. In addition if you are dealing with a “company” that doesn’t accept card payment, be very wary as a legitimate company will almost certainly have facilities arranged through their bank to accept cards.

If you are also dealing with a company you’ve never heard of before that is not a member of a trade body such as ABTA, put their name in a search engine, chances are if they’re crooks other people will have posted about them.

Lastly trust your instincts, it’s a truism but a valid one, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. For a full list of hints on how to avoid being a victim of travel fraud go to abta.com/fraud.

Sean Tipton, Media Manager, ABTA