If you're booking your holiday online this year, make sure you're aware of the scams out there that could set you back thousands of pounds.
According to a new report by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau section of the City of London Police, around £2.2m was stolen from unsuspecting holidaymakers last year. The average loss was £889, but in one case a member of the public lost £62,000 in a timeshare scam.
Most people who had been conned had paid by bank transfer or cash, with no way of getting their money back. However, if people paid by debit or credit card, some form of compensation was available.
Criminal groups have been targeting online booking firms in order to fool consumers; they hack into into the accounts of owners on well-known accommodation sites and engineer ways of making sure all of the owners' emails come to them, enabling them to make 'bogus' bookings.
During a 12-month period, 1,569 cases of holiday booking fraud were reported to the force's Action Fraud.
The most common types of fraud relate to holiday accommodation, airline tickets (particular to West Africa), sports and religious groups, holiday clubs or timeshares.
To make sure that people are aware of the dangers of online scams, ABTA, The City of London Police and Get Safe Online have joined forces to issue the following guidelines:
- Check the web address is legitimate - if it changes from .co.uk to .org, beware
- Don't just rely on one review - do a thorough online search to check the company's credentials. A quick Google search will tell you all you need to know
- Check whether the company is a member of a recognised trade body such as ABTA
- You should never be asked to pay directly into someone's bank account - paying via debit or credit card or via PayPal is much safer. When you pay directly into someone's account, the money is not traceable.
- Carefully read through receipts, invoices and terms and conditions, and don't buy from companies that do not provide them
- Use your instincts; if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is
- If you've been scammed, contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040
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