Don’t get caught out: Your guide to avoiding holiday booking fraud

Each year, fraudsters target holiday bookings stealing millions of pounds of holiday makers’ money. Not only are consumers losing thousands of pounds each but many holidays are being ruined, with people unable to afford a replacement.

ABTA has joined forces with the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, Action Fraud and Get Safe On-line 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 consumers 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 through fake websites, false advertising, bogus phone calls and email scams.

What types of bookings are affected?

Fraudsters can target all types of booking, but the following areas are most common. You can read more about what to do to spot fraud for each of these booking types on the buttons below.

  • On-line bookings: Growth in on-line bookings has led to fraudsters using fake websites – often by slightly changing legitimate web addresses to trick consumers.
  • Holiday accommodation: Fraudsters often use villa rental websites to advertise holiday villas or apartments that don’t exist. Most scams occur on sites where ‘owners’ advertise their accommodation directly, or where fraudsters clone legitimate sites. 

  • Airline tickets: Consumers book a flight and receive a fake ticket or pay for tickets that never turn up. The main warning sign is not receiving a ticket, or an invoice, straight away.
  • Package Holidays: Muslims heading for  the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Saudia Arabia are a particular target. Events such as the World Cup are also a target for fraudsters offering bogus flights, accommodation or both.

Top tips to help avoid holiday booking fraud

  • 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 a member of a trade body such as ABTA. Members will be legitimate companies, operating to a strict code of conduct. Verify membership of the trade association online, i.e. through www.abta.com.
  • 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.
  • Pay safe: It is best to pay on credit card so that your purchase is protected. You should never pay directly into an owner's bank account; paying by direct bank transfer is like paying by cash – the money will not be traceable.
  • Check the paperwork: Beware of companies that don’t have terms and conditions. You should study terms and conditions on invoices and receipts.
  • Use your instincts: If something sounds too good to be true – it probably is. If something doesn’t feel right then question it.

Report it

Contact Action Fraud by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk or speaking to a specialist advisor on 0300 123 2040.

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