UK Holidaymakers Lost Over £7million to Fraudsters 2018
Victims have listed an average £1,380 in various scams involving fake airline tickets, accommodation and tours
A report has been compiled by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), Action Fraud and Get Safe Online and they have found that over 5,000 people reported losing a total of just over £7 million to holiday and travel related fraud last year. These reported losses are up on the previous year when 4,382 victims reported losing £6.7 million and the report warns that fraud may be even higher, with many victims feeling too embarrassed to report it.
Mark Tanzer, ABTA chief executive says: “ABTA sees at first-hand the damage caused by travel fraudsters after customers find out their much-anticipated holiday or trip to visit family and friends does not actually exist. David Cox says “The cost to victims is not just financial as these crimes cause emotional distress as well."
Mr Tanzer says that fraudsters are using increasingly sophisticated methods to target destinations and at times of year when people are looking for good deals.
He adds: “As victims often find out just before they travel, or worse when they arrive at the resort, they believe they are booked into. Being defrauded can then be very difficult and expensive when trying to obtain a legitimate replacement, as when facing compounded costs, the financial costs and emotional distress suffered by victims is huge.
Airline ticket fraud
More than half (53%) of the crimes reported were related to the sale of airline tickets with losses of over £425,000 made in August.
In particular, holidaymakers booking flights to Africa and the Indian subcontinent were affected. Fraudsters may be exploiting lack of knowledge of the strict UK regulations in place governing the sale of airline tickets, the report says. ‘One-way fraudsters trick people is by offering incredible deals on fake websites or social media’.
If a victim provides their contact details when making a search for flights on a bogus website, the fraudster then offers them a deliberately low quote for their desired flight to tempt them into making payment.
After the victim has paid they receive a confirmation email, but further enquiries with the airline reveal their booking does not exist.
Accommodation scams account for 25% of travel fraud, with a majority of scams reported in October 2018. This suggests that many victims are reporting losses after the end of the summer holidays. With accommodation scams, fraudsters use fake online adverts, bogus sales calls, emails and text messages offering incredibly cheap deals.
Villas are often advertised way below the market rate in order to entice customers who think they have nabbed a bargain. The scammers are also becoming increasingly sophisticated, often stealing pictures from real sites. They may even have the ABTA approved logo on them.
Although some of these villas are fictitious, many exist but are being offered by fraudsters without the legitimate owner’s knowledge. Spain and France are the two destinations most commonly targeted.
Haj trips are particularly attractive to fraudsters as the amounts of money involved are substantial with the average loss totalling almost £10,000 per reported case.
Top tips to avoid travel 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 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. If you have any doubts, you can verify membership of ABTA online, at www.abta.com.
Pay safe - Wherever possible, pay by credit card and be wary about paying directly into a private individual’s bank account.
Check paperwork - You should study receipts, invoices as well as terms and conditions. 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.