YOUR summer holiday could be ruined by fraudsters if you’re not aware of the latest scams.
As holiday hotspots around the world lift travel restrictions, many sun-starved Brits are looking to book their Easter and summer breaks.
And this fraudster looking to take advantage of people hunting for their bargain holidays can all too easily ruin your plans.
Online fraud went up by 30% as the Covid pandemic forced people to shop more over the internet.
Figures from UK Finance show that consumers lost £355.3million to Authorised Push Payment fraud in the first half of 2021 alone.
Paul Maskall, fraud and cybercrime prevention manager at UK Finance, said: “Criminals are very good at adapting to what’s going on in our society and because of Covid, they know people are desperate to get away.”
He warns of four scams you need to watch out for when booking your summer holiday.
Fake booking websites
Fake booking sites are set up by scammers to get your money and personal information.
These websites will look as though they’re set up by genuine travel companies.
However, subtle changes in the URL can indicate whether a website is fraudulent.
Mr Maskall said: “Look out for the formatting of the website and whether it’s pertaining to be an official travel booking company.”
If you’re sent a link to a site or deal through an email or social media message – don’t click it.
Instead, use a search engine like Google to search for the company yourself and look for reviews.
Spelling errors and dodgy logos can sometimes indicate a fake site – and if you’re entering any payment details, look for the secure padlock sign in the address bar.
If you see any suspicious websites, you can report them to the National Cyber Security Centre on its website, or forward phishing emails to email@example.com.
You can report scam texts by forwarding the message to 7726, which is a free reporting service provided by phone operators.
Incredibly cheap holiday packages
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Fraudsters often send out phishing emails advertising incredible deals for package holidays or flights.
These scams can catch us off guard, especially when we are desperate for a cheap getaway.
“Very often we look past those red flags when we are excited and don’t necessarily think objectively.” Mr Maskall said.
Once you click the link to the deal, you’re usually directed to a fake website.
Then, when you’re ready to pay for your amazing deal, you’re left using unsecure payment options, which are designed to get your personal and financial information.
“Scammers direct you away from secure payment channels, so instead of a proper card system, they will say something like ‘just so you don’t avoid missing out on this deal, you can pay via bank transfer’,” said Maskall.
Besides taking your money, scammers can also use your information for further fraud.
Remember to look for the secure payment padlock, and never do a bank transfer to someone you don’t know.
Fake accommodation listings
Fake accommodation listings including caravans or motorhomes became popular over the past two years, which saw a stayaction boom.
But these scams are just as common for listings on overseas holidays, which can be found on sites such as Facebook marketplace and Gumtree.
Mr Maskall said: “These listings are usually on unregulated channels where anybody can create a social media post. There is no real checking of the validity of the content posted.”
Fraudsters may say they’re listing in this way so you don’t have to pay additional booking costs, making you feel like they’re helping you out.
But the fraudsters then direct you away from secure payment channels by asking you to use PayPal friends and family or do a bank transfer.
To avoid this scam, be sure to check the accommodation by searching the address online and see if it matches with the advert.
Another useful tool is Google reverse image search, which lets users check if a picture has previously appeared elsewhere.
“If you can see the same images are associated with another address at another location then it’s most likely a scam,” he added.
Holiday refund scams
Refund scams are particularly easy to fall for because it’s exciting to think you may be getting your money back after a cancelled flight or holiday.
Mr Maskall said: “It can be really stressful, and this scam triggers the hope that these websites are going to make your life easier and get you your money back.”
Criminals use these opportunities to defraud people in a number of ways such as phishing emails, spoof calls or social media adverts.
If you are due a refund, it ‘s best to stick to the official channels and go through the company you booked with.
Be wary of going through third parties – even if they do get your money back, they’ll likely take a big chunk of it as commission for their services.
“Doing your due diligence checks to make sure you are dealing with the actual organisation responsible for your booking,” said Maskall.
To make refunds easier in the first place, try to book holidays through reputable travel companies that are members of a trade body such as ABTA or ATOL.
If you think you may have been a victim of a scam by fraudsters, contact your bank immediately and report it to to Action Fraud.
Here are some other scams you should be aware of while on holiday including fake staff, secret menu prices and dodgy tickets.
Holidaymakers heading to Spain have been warned of a new “bird poo scam” targeting tourists.
Meanwhile, a holiday to Greece has been made much easier from last week after the country scrapped Passenger Locator Forms regardless of people’s vaccination status.
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