04 Jan

Travel association warns of fraudulent travel companies

ABTA reveals top five scams as busiest holiday sales period gets underway

As the busiest holidays sales period of the year kicks off, ABTA is warning holidaymakers about the risks of booking with fraudulent companies, after seeing an increase in fake websites, online scams and non-compliant travel companies that have no financial protection in place.

With a third of summer holidays typically booked during January and February, ABTA is concerned that people looking for a bargain may be duped by fraudsters – travel fraud is up 425% year on year and costs holidaymakers £11.5 million according to the City of London Police*.

ABTA has put together the following list of warning scams and signs to look out for:

Businesses not providing financial protection

In 2016 more than 100 travel businesses were identified by ABTA as selling package holidays without having proper financial protection in place, and referred to the relevant authorities. All package holidays sold in the UK should include protection, where holidaymakers are not only entitled to a refund or repatriation, should their travel company go out of business, but also other specific legal rights, should there be a problem with the holiday. All ABTA Members provide protection for their package holidays. People booking a holiday that is ATOL protected should always receive an ATOL Certificate.

Scam websites

Some websites are set up purely to defraud customers, and these scam or fraudulent websites are an area of growing concern for ABTA. On a legitimate website, there should be a locked padlock symbol in the browser window frame, which appears when you attempt to make an online payment, or the web address should begin with ‘https://’.

Cloned websites

These are websites that are copies of a genuine site with subtle changes made. Fraudsters can clone legitimate websites but will change the last part of the web address, such as from .co.uk to .org. They can also produce a realistic-looking website, but with the spelling of the address slightly different from that of the authentic site. Check that the website address that appears in the top window is correct. If you are suspicious of a website, carry out a web search to see if you can find out whether or not it is fraudulent.

Payment via bank transfers

Be suspicious when the only payment option is a bank transfer. Not only is this an indication that no bank is prepared to provide credit card facilities, but if you are dealing with a scammer it will be virtually impossible to get your money back.

False credentials

Some fraudulent companies may falsely use logos of official bodies such as ATOL, or of organisations such as ABTA and IATA. If the company you are using claims to be a member of a trade association, you should be able to easily verify membership on the trade association’s website, for example on https://abta.com/find-a-member.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive, commented: “Booking a holiday should be an exciting experience, however it can be ruined by clever and unscrupulous scams. We have seen a significant increase in fraudulent activity over the past year, so we are encouraging all holidaymakers to stop and think about the company they are booking with. I would encourage people to book with an ABTA travel company, so they can rest assured that their holiday company is genuine and covered by our Code of Conduct.”

ABTA is launching a nationwide advertising campaign today (4 January) in response to the growing issue of fraudulent websites, online scams and non-compliant travel companies that have no financial protection in place. The advertising will promote ABTA’s ‘Travel with confidence’ message and encourage consumers to book with an ABTA travel company during the busiest holiday sales period of the year.

Members of the public who have been the victims of a travel-related fraud should register their complaint online to the police at Action Fraud. You can report fraud and cyber-crime to Action Fraud online at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by speaking to a specialist fraud and cyber-crime adviser on 0300 123 2040.

* City of London Police Report, February 2016