British holidaymakers reported losing £11.5m in holiday scams and fraud in 2015, recent figures have revealed.
The report – released by the City of London Police National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) – revealed that, on average, each holiday scam victim lost around £3,000.
Unfortunately, one person lost an eye-watering £35,000 to a timeshare scam.
And the losses aren’t just financial. Almost all victims said that the fraud had impacted on their health and wellbeing.
The report also identified three common holiday scams that this year’s holidaymakers should be aware of. You can find out more about scams to watch out for on the Which? Consumer Rights website.
1. Fake flights and accommodation
Professional-looking websites can be set up very easily by scammers, using rudimentary IT skills, so make sure you’re confident that the site you use is legitimate.
Fraudsters are also known to leave fake online reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor.
In addition, con artists have been know to set up fake airline ticket sites offering ‘cheap’ fares. According to the NFIB, fake flights to India, Nigeria and Pakistan were particularly prominent last year.
2. Sports and religious trips
The limited availability of tickets, and consequently higher prices, make sporting events and religious trips a popular target for criminals.
The NFIB anticipates that 2016’s biggest targets this summer will be the European Football Championships in France and the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
3. Timeshares and holiday clubs
Timeshare agreements last for a long time and can be difficult to cancel, and some are sold in very high pressure situations.
Timeshares and holiday clubs accounted for more than a quarter of the total reported losses, with victims losing anywhere between £9,000 and £35,000 each.
How to spot holiday scams
We asked Abta, the travel association, for the scoop on how to spot the most common scams.
- ‘Too good to be true’ flight or holiday prices. Considerably cheaper prices should set alarm bells ringing. Flight prices are largely set by the airlines – with travel agents having some leeway – so charging significantly less is often a sign something isn’t right.
- No such thing as a ‘free’ holiday. Many victims of timeshare scams were offered ‘free’ holidays to entice them into attending a seminar where they were duped into buying a fraudulent timeshare.You need to be on your guard against being talked into signing up for something you later regret.
- The only payment option is a bank transfer. This should also set alarm bells ringing. Not only does this show no bank is prepared to provide credit card facilities but, if you’re dealing with a scammer, it will be almost impossible to get your money back.
- Use online reviews. There is a good chance that consumers will post details of their experiences and warnings about the company. Check several online review sites before booking.
- Buy official. If you’re buying tickets for an event, you should only buy from official ticket sellers, especially if you know the event is in high demand.
While we can take sensible steps like these to protect ourselves, the techniques used by criminals are constantly evolving, and place an unfair burden on us to constantly try to stay one-step ahead.
Which? is calling on the government to take the lead in ensuring companies safeguard us all from the many different types of scam. Don’t let the fraudsters get away with it – help to convince the government to confront scams head on by signing our petition.