The amount of money lost in holiday booking scams has risen by a quarter in the past year, according to City of London Police data.
The data revealed there were 4,700 reported cases of holidaymakers ripped off by booking scams in 2017 totalling £6.7m, with scam victims typically losing £1,500.
Almost half of the victims said the fraud had a significant impact on their health or financial well-being.
Some 575 people revealed the impact was so severe they had to receive medical treatment or were at risk of bankruptcy.
How to spot a holiday scam – read our free guide on how to avoid common holiday scam traps.
Common targets for scammers
The most common scams related to airline tickets and accommodation bookings.
Sporting and religious trips are also a popular target for scammers due to the limited number of tickets and subsequent higher prices.
Experts also see a spike in scam cases in December and during the summer months, leading them to believe fraudsters are targeting busy holiday periods when it’s harder to get a bargain.
Fraudsters are setting up bogus accommodation websites, hacking into legitimate accounts and posting fake adverts online.
Avoid holiday scams with small steps
Fraudsters are increasingly using more sophisticated ways to trick their victims, so it’s important to do your research when making travel arrangements.
It can be tempting to get lured in by the offer of a cut-price flight or a deal on accommodation when you are caught up in the excitement of booking a holiday.
Get Safe Online’s Tony Neate said: ‘Small steps can stop you getting caught out by a holiday scam, such as researching the company you are booking through, especially ones that aren’t mainstream operators.
‘Check well known review sites too so you can see what previous customers’ experiences have been and, where possible, pay by credit card to get extra protection in case anything does go wrong.’
A recent Which? Travel investigation proved just how easy it is for con artists to put fake accommodation listings on popular holiday-letting websites.
Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said: ‘The financial and emotional consequences for victims of these fraudsters are devastating.
‘Much more needs to be done to make it harder for criminals to operate on these sites and to shut down fraudulent accounts quickly when they are reported.
‘The rise in travel-related fraud also shows how vital it is for the banking industry to introduce a scheme to reimburse people who fall victim to these scams through no fault of their own.’
How to avoid a holiday scam
If it sounds too good to be true – it probably is. So if you see a great deal online, make sure you do your research and read reviews about the site.
And if a bank transfer is your only payment option, this should set alarm bells ringing. Paying directly makes it very hard to trace where your money went if something goes wrong and makes it very difficult to get a refund.
We have a free guide with seven steps to help you spot a holiday scam.