How to avoid travel related fraud

Each year, fraudsters target unsuspecting holidaymakers and travellers conning them out of millions of pounds. Not only are people losing substantial sums of money but many holidays are being ruined, with people unable to afford a replacement. Over the past four years, we've joined forces with the City of London Police, Action Fraud and Get Safe Online to raise awareness of different types of holiday booking fraud and how you can avoid becoming a victim.

What is holiday booking fraud?

Holiday booking fraud is when people hand over money only to discover the holiday, accommodation or flight they paid for doesn’t exist.

Fraudsters are conning unsuspecting holidaymakers and travellers out of millions of pounds each year or leaving them stranded with nowhere to stay.

The most common types of booking fraud are: 

  • 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.
  • 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 losing typically thousands of pounds. 

Top tips to help avoid holiday booking fraud

  • Stay safe online: Check the web address is legitimate and has not been altered by slight changes to a domain name – such as going from .co.uk to .org.
  • Do your research: Don’t just rely on one review – do a thorough online search to ensure the company is credible. If they’re suspect, other people may well have posted their experiences warning people off.
  • Look for the logo: Check whether the company is an ABTA Member. Look for the ABTA logo on the company's website and if you have any doubts, verify membership by visiting our ABTA Member search. If you're booking a flight and want more information about ATOL protection, or would like to check whether a company is an ATOL holder, then please visit the CAA website.
  • Pay safe: Never pay directly into an private individuals bank account. 
  • Check the paperwork: You should study receipts, invoices and terms and conditions, and be very wary of any companies that don’t provide any at all. When booking through a Holiday Club or Timeshare, get the contract thoroughly vetted by a solicitor before signing up. 
  • Use your instincts: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Report it: Victims should always contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or register via Action Fraud.
  • Get free expert advice: For further advice on how to stay safe when booking or researching travel online, go to Get Safe Online.

Airline tickets, passports and visas

Top tips for flight bookings

Airline tickets are an attractive area for fraudsters. Fraudsters will often offer fares that are a lot lower than their competitors which can be a warning sign. It is important to remember to look for whether the agent is an IATA license holder – the majority are and if so they are required to issue tickets immediately on full payment so, insist on being emailed as soon as you have paid – preferably by credit or debit card. A few agents do buy in legitimate tickets from other companies which will have an ATOL license – ask for a confirmation invoice from the ATOL holder supplying the ticket.  In both cases full details of the flights and itinerary should be shown along with a six digit number (the PNR – Passenger Name Record) –  which is the unique id for your flight reservations – check this to make sure your ticket is genuine.

Applying for a visa or passport – don’t pay ‘extra’!

Visas are required for many countries around the world for a fee and are usually available online. Many official looking websites will charge you an additional fee whilst adding nothing of value to the process, so always go to the official government website to avoid these extra fees. The correct addresses can be found on the FCO’s travel advice. This is also a problem for UK passport applications so always go to: www.gov.uk/apply-renew-passport when applying for or renewing your passport.

Reporting fraud

What to do if you have been a victim of fraud

If you have been a victim of fraud, there is a network of support and information available to you and you can also help prevent other people being scammed. If you have been affected, here’s what to do:

  • Report it to Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk. You can use the online tool if you suspect you’ve been targeted
  • If you think the company maybe a member of a trade body such as ABTA, report the fraud to them
  • If you paid for the holiday using your credit or debit card, report the fraud to your card issuer
  • If you have any information on any crime and you would prefer not to speak to police, you can call independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit www.crimestoppers-uk.org

More Information

Useful websites:

Each year, fraudsters target unsuspecting holidaymakers and travellers conning them out of millions of pounds. Not only are people losing substantial sums of money but many holidays are being ruined, with people unable to afford a replacement. 

Kelli from Greenwich, was going to Amsterdam with colleagues for work in October. She searched AirBnB to book an apartment for the trip and came across one with a reasonable deal. The listing suggested contact via a personal email address for quicker communication which Kelli used. Having confirmed the details of the people due to stay in the apartment, she received what appeared to be an automated email from AirBnB stating that her apartment booking was approved. This email included links which led back to the legitimate AirBnb website. The purported owner of the apartment then requested a booking fee to secure the booking. Kelli made the payment of £975 but the morning after she made the payment, Kelli received an email from AirBnB that said she ‘may have contacted a fake account’. Kelli reported the fraud to Action Fraud.

John from Tamworth, booked a villa last March for a December holiday in the Canary Islands. John paid £930 to the purported owner of the villa to secure the booking. At a later date, he wanted to check his flight details and book a car for the trip but could not find the website he had booked through. Having used a search engine to try and find the website, he came across several Trip Advisor reviews saying that the website was a scam. John has since tried to call the supposed villa owner but with no luck.

Stephanie from London, paid £410 for a flight from Heathrow to Nigeria and received the flight e-ticket, however there was no terminal on the ticket. When she arrived at Heathrow they had no record of her booking. Stephanie has attempted to contact the flight company and was told she would receive a refund but this has not been sent. Further calls by Stephanie to the company have not been answered.

William from Cambridge, enquired about a holiday villa in Portugal through a website, homeaway.com and received a follow up email from Sol-Domus.com which contained his initial enquiry. William went on to negotiate the villa deal through a Sol Domus employee and, once he made the payment of £8,375, he received an official Sol Domus confirmation with instructions on how to find the property. William contacted Sol Domus the day before his holiday and was informed that they had no record of his booking and had never sent or received emails for the booking. William visited Portugal anyway and met with the Sol Domus employee who explained they may have both been a victim of fraudsters. William has since reported the crime to his bank and Action Fraud.