ABTA and Action Fraud warn travellers to be on the lookout for scammers as demand for breaks and holidays increases
FRAUDSTERS are finding new ways to con holiday makers out of cash as the demand for breaks and travel soars.
As households clamour for package trips, accommodation, flights and other travel options, scammers – say police and travel experts – are becoming increasingly more inventive to get at people's hard-earned money.
With seats on planes, trains and ferries in high demand since the end of pandemic restrictions and the increasing cost of living meaning that households have their eye to a bargain, fraudsters are trying to exploit the situation with growing regularity says organisation Action Fraud.
The UK's cyber crime agency says instances of travel fraud are now up 120% with officials receiving more than 4,000 reports in the last 12 months – where on average each victim experienced a loss of more than £1,800.
Forced to launch a new national awareness campaign this month to try and make people aware of the risks with the summer months approaching, Action Fraud is urging people to think twice before handing over money or personal information.
Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, said: "Unfortunately, we know that as demand for holidays soar, so does the number of scams and criminals are always finding new ways to catch people out and make them part with their hard earned cash.
"When booking a holiday here or abroad, it’s so important to do your research before handing over any money or personal details. Trust your instincts and remember, if a deal looks too good to be true, then it probably is."
Thousands of people are expected to get away in the coming days, potentially leading to travel chaos on the roads, as the May half-term break coincides with the extended Platinum Jubilee Weekend.
Airports are also gearing up for what could be their busiest week in two years while there is little free capacity at the ferry and Eurotunnel terminals as thousands of motorists head for Europe.
While many holiday and accommodation providers use online booking platforms properly and legitimately – criminals are now increasingly setting up counterfeit or copy cat sites to defraud victims.
Clone comparison websites, airline booking pages and fake holiday accommodation sites all exist, says travel organisation ABTA, which is warning customers to tread carefully when booking or rearranging much-wanted holiday plans.
Many unsuspecting holidaymakers, it says, can be taken through the entire booking procedure by a fraudster posing as an agent or company, who will go as far as to take payment and collect endless personal details, and sometimes victims only become aware they've been conned when they arrive at an airport or hotel and are unable to check-in.
Graeme Buck ABTA director of communications added: "Over the years ABTA has seen the damage caused by travel fraudsters when devastated customers find out their holiday or trip to visit friends and family does not actually exist. The cost to them is not just financial; travel-related fraud crime also causes emotional distress and extreme disappointment."
Among the tips ABTA shares for trying to avoid falling victim to holiday fraud are checking that web addresses are legitimate and there aren't slight changes to domain names that arouse suspicion, look for company logos and check whether firms are members of ABTA before booking, pay by credit card – which offers additional protection – and be aware of companies who won't provide full and proper invoices and receipts.