Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, has warned consumers to be wary of holiday scams as reports about fraudsters have soared.
In the financial year 2021-22, Action Fraud received 4,244 reports of holiday and travel-related fraud – a “substantial” increase of more than 120% when compared to the previous financial year, said the body.
Victims reported losing a total of almost £7.4 million – an average loss of £1,868 per victim.
As the travel industry recovers from the pandemic, Action Fraud has launched a national awareness campaign to urge the public to think twice before handing over money and personal information when booking holidays.
Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said: “As the world begins to open up and travel restrictions relax further, it’s no surprise that more people are eager to get away and kick back with their loved ones after two years of lockdowns and restrictions.
“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.”
Graeme Buck, Abta’s communications director, 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.
“There is help available and you can protect yourself from these unscrupulous individuals by checking and following the tips and advice on abta.com.
“However, if are unlucky enough to fall victim, always report the crime to Action Fraud so that they can prevent other people from going through the same awful experience.”
More than 7% of victims reported falling victim to suspects impersonating legitimate travel companies, including clone comparison websites, airline websites and holiday accommodation websites.
In some cases, victims have searched for flight tickets online and have found a website they believe to be the company’s genuine website.
In other cases, victims reported responding to an approach or advertisement on social media or using what they believed to be legitimate flight comparison websites to search for flights.
Some victims have only become aware that they have been the victim of fraud when they arrive at the airport and are unable to check-in.
Advice to consumers includes:
• 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 a thorough online search to ensure the company is credible.
• check whether the company is an Abta member.
• pay wherever possible, pay by credit card, and avoid paying directly into a private individual’s bank account.
• study receipts, invoices and terms and conditions, and be very wary of any companies that don’t provide any at all.
• if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
For a full list of tips to avoid becoming a victim of fraud, visit the Abta website here.