£6.7 million was reported as lost to holiday booking fraud in the UK last year, with airline tickets and online accommodation main targets.
Fraudsters stole £6.7 million from 4,700 unsuspecting holidaymakers and other travellers in 2017, a new report reveals today.
The average amount lost per person was over £1,500, an increase of 25% year on year. These individual losses are substantial, but this form of fraud also has other severe effects with almost half (2,245) of victims saying that it also had had a significant impact on their health or financial well-being. Most worryingly of all, 575 people said the impact on them was so severe that they had to receive medical treatment or were at risk of bankruptcy.
The most common types of fraud relate to the sale of airline tickets (47%) and accommodation booking (38%).
4,700 people told Action Fraud that they had been the victim of a travel related fraud in 2017 though the three campaign partners believe that the actual figure is much higher, with many victims not realising that they should always report the fraud to the police.
In common with previous years, the numbers of people reporting travel fraud to the police jumps in the summer and in December. This is a very clear indication that fraudsters are targeting the peak holiday periods and the people heading home to visit friends and family. They do this because they know demand will be high and availability low, so good value bookings will be harder to find with customers on the lookout for reasonable prices.
The visiting friends and family market is particularly attractive to fraudsters offering fake flight tickets and package arrangements. Fraudsters may also be targeting individuals travelling home to visit family in time for public or religious holidays. Where destinations were reported by victims, 54% said they had been intending to travel to Africa and 24% to Asia. This suggests that fraudsters may also be exploiting lack of knowledge of the strict regulations in place for the legitimate UK based travel industry.
Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive, said: “ABTA sees at first-hand the damage caused by travel fraudsters with the many devastated customers who contact us for advice after they find out there much anticipated holiday or trip to visit loved ones may not actually exist. The cost to them is not just financial; this crime causes very real disappointment and emotional distress. However this does not need to happen. Check and follow the tips and advice on abta.com and you will not fall victim to these unscrupulous individuals. But if you are unlucky enough to do so, always report it to Action Fraud so that they can put these crooks out of business.”
Head of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, said: “Holidays are the perfect chance to relax and unwind, however as this year’s statistics show, they are also an opportunity for fraudsters to trick you out of your hard-earned money. The startling emotional impact of falling victim to holiday fraud is highlighted in the latest figures, as 575 people reported that the harm to them was so severe, they had to receive medical treatment or were at risk of bankruptcy. This is why we are raising awareness so that people feel better able to protect themselves from being a victim of fraud. 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. If you think you have been a victim of fraud, contact Action Fraud.”
Never pay for holiday accommodation, travel or package holidays by bank transfer, however desperate you are to get away, or however good a deal it seems. If it’s a scam, you’ll lose your holiday AND your money.
When possible, pay for holidays and travel using your credit card as this offers additional financial protection over other methods.
And, before entering payment card details on a website, you can make sure that the link is secure, in two ways:
– There should be a padlock symbol in the browser window frame, which appears when you attempt to log in or register. Be sure that the padlock is not on the page itself … this will probably indicate a fraudulent site.
– The web address should begin with https:// The ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’.
Don’t become a victim of fraud. For more advice, see: www.getsafeonline.org/booksafe