More than 5,000 cases of holiday and travel booking fraud were reported last year with total losses of £7 million.

The average amount lost was £1,380 per person, with more than half (53%) of the crimes reported related to the sale of airline tickets.

The largest individual monthly loss, of over £425,000, was made in August 2018, a new report released today by Abta revealed.

The next most common fraud at 25% related to the sale of accommodation, with a peak in reported losses in October.

This indicates that many victims report their loss after the end of the summer holidays, according to the study.

The total lost to fraudsters was up on 2017 levels when 4,382 victims reported losing £6.7 million.

Abta, Action Fraud and Get Safe Online believe that the total figures relating to travel fraud in 2018 may be even higher, with many victims feeling too embarrassed to report.

They are joining forces to warn consumers  about the dangers posed by holiday booking fraud and give advice on how to spot and avoid travel related fraud.

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “Fraudsters are using increasingly sophisticated methods to target destinations and times of year when demand is high and availability limited, as they know people will be looking for good deals.

“As victims often find out just before they travel or even in resort that they have been defrauded, it can then be very difficult and expensive to obtain a legitimate replacement booking compounding the financial costs and emotional distress suffered by victims. ”

He added: “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.

“This is why Abta, Action Fraud and Get Safe Online work together to make people aware of the steps they can take to avoid falling foul of a holiday scam.

“The cost to victims is not just financial; this crime causes very real emotional distress.”

Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, said: “There is a startling emotional impact of falling victim to holiday fraud bringing the feeling of embarrassment and disappointment to those we love, so we want to ensure that people feel better able to protect themselves.

“We know that fraudsters are increasingly using more sophisticated ways to trick their victims, which is why it is important that you do your research when making travel arrangements.”

Tony Neate of Get Safe Online said: “Although it can seem alarming that reported holiday booking fraud is rising, it shouldn’t be a reason to stop you from booking your holiday online.

“Instead, we urge people to take some time before booking a holiday to read through our safety tips and familiarise themselves with the small changes they can make to ensure they don’t get caught out by cyber criminals.

“Customer reviews are invaluable but don’t rely on just one review, research thoroughly. Look out for companies that are members of professional bodies such as Abta and be wary of paying a private individual by bank transfer, even if you are offered a discounted rate.

“Paying by credit card will offer you much more protection from fraud. Finally, trust your instincts, don’t get rushed into making impulsive decisions if something doesn’t feel quite right.”

Types of holiday booking fraud:

Airline tickets – As well as flights relating to holidays, fraudsters particularly target the visiting friends and family market with flights to Africa and the Indian subcontinent dominating the list of affected destinations. The campaign partners believe that fraudsters may be exploiting lack of knowledge of the strict UK regulations in place governing the sale of airline tickets.

Accommodation fraud – Fraudsters are using increasingly sophisticated methods, with very professional and convincing websites offering upmarket villas for rent. Although some of these villas are fictitious many actually exist, but are being offered by fraudsters without the legitimate owner’s knowledge. Spain and France are the two destinations most commonly targeted.

Religious trips – 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.

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