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UK consumers lose £1.5 million in holiday scams

Flight and accommodation bookings hit by fraud

Fraudsters are swindling unsuspecting holidaymakers out of thousands of pounds each year, according to research from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB).

A new report reveals that nearly 1,000 cases of holiday fraud were reported in 2012, costing consumers around £1.5 million. The NFIB’s figures have been released as part of a joint campaign with ABTA, the Travel Association, to warn the public about the dangers posed by holiday-booking fraud.

The research highlighted how consumers hand over money for a flight, accommodation or holiday, only to discover later that it doesn’t exist, or the booking was never made. Travellers may also be left stranded with nowhere to stay due to fake websites and advertising, bogus phone calls and email scams.

Types of holiday scam

The most common types of travel fraud are:

  • Airline tickets – in 45% of the reported cases, people received a fake flight ticket or the ticket never turned up.
  • Holiday accommodation – a third of victims were scammed by the fraudulent advertisement of holiday villas and apartments, highlighting the importance of booking with a reliable self-catering provider.
  • Package holidays – fraud is most common with group packages, and for expensive trips to major events in long-haul destinations, such as the pilgrimage to the Hajj and The Ashes.
  • Visa applications – scams are particularly prevalent with the ESTA visa requirement for the US.

Avoiding travel problems

It is the first time that the NFIB’s research has measured the scale of crimes reported, and it estimates that the figures are just the tip of the iceberg. However, consumers are far more likely to experience problems such as not getting the holiday accommodation they were promised than outright fraud.

To avoid the potential for being scammed, research the credentials of the company you are planning to book with before making an upfront payment, checking online reviews and whether it is a member of a trade association. Never pay into an individual’s bank account by direct bank transfer and always pay by credit card if possible.

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