By Lydia Murphy
British holidaymakers have been conned out of £2.2million in the last year by online scams and spoofing sites.
A new report from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau highlighted that millions of pounds were lost through fake travel sites, with many tourists only discovering the scam when they showed up to their destination with no correct record of booking.
Travel assocation ABTA and Get Safe Online are urging online holiday hunters to take care when buying services online, no matter how web-savvy they are.
Fraudsters dupe unsuspecting online bookers – most commonly in the 30-49 age bracket – through elaborate scams involving fake plane tickets, hacking accounts, posting bogus adverts online, and setting up bogus websites.
One victim lost £62,000 when a timeshare scheme that turned out to be fake, while a family of three generations visitng Istanbul through an agent found their £2,500 had disappeared. But ABTA warn that falling foul of scams has an effect on health too – 162 of the 1,569 cases reported were so severe that the victim needed medical attention.
Mark Tanzer, ABTA chief executive, said: “Holiday fraud is a particularly distressing form of fraud as the loss to the victim is not just financial but it can also have a high emotional impact.
“Many victims are unable to get away on a long-awaited holiday or visit to loved ones and the financial loss is accompanied by a personal loss. Every year we are contacted by members of the public who have been the victims of fraudsters, the majority through online scams.
“We urge travellers to follow the tips that we have put together in partnership with the police and Get Safe Online to stop travel fraudsters in their tracks. We would also encourage anyone who has been the victim of a travel-related fraud to report it so that the police can build up a case, catch the perpetrators and prevent other unsuspecting people from falling victim.”
In conjunction with the police, their advice is:
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 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.
Look for the logo – Check whether the company is a member of a recognised trade body such as ABTA. You can verify membership of ABTA online, at www.abta.com.
Pay safe – Never pay directly into an owner’s bank account. Paying by direct bank transfer is like paying by cash – the money cannot be traced and is not refundable. Where possible, pay by credit card (or a debit card that offers protection).
Check paperwork – You should study receipts, invoices and terms and conditions, and be very wary of any companies that don’t provide any at all.
Use your instincts – If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Report it – victims should contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via www.actionfraud.police.uk.