We all want to make sure we get the best deal possible for our holiday. However, with so many travel agents promising the best offers, it can be difficult to differentiate between the legitimate agents and the fraudsters.
Using a local travel agent or going online are some of the easiest and most convenient ways to book a holiday, particularly today in our time-poor generation, not to mention often being the most cost-effective.
However, in a recent report by leading UK travel trade association ABTA, Action Fraud and Get Safe Online, it was revealed that an astonishing £7 million had been stolen from unsuspecting holidaymakers and travellers.
More than 5,000 people reported to Action Fraud that they had lost a total of just over £7 million to holiday and travel-related fraud, an increase on last year, when 4,382 victims reported losing £6.7 million.
Mark Tanzer, ABTA’s chief executive, commented:
“ABTA sees at first-hand the damage caused by travel fraudsters after customers find out their much anticipated holiday or trip to visit family and friends does not actually exist.
“This is why ABTA, Action Fraud and Get Safe Online work together to make people aware of the steps they can take to avoid falling foul of a holiday scam.”
Also on the rise are the number of fraudulent online holiday bookings. Criminals posing as travel agents and fake online travel companies have been successfully scamming British holidaymakers out of thousands of pounds in recent years.
Tony Neate of Get Safe Online commented:
“Although it can seem alarming that reported holiday booking fraud is rising, it shouldn’t be a reason to stop you from booking your holiday online.
“Instead, we urge people to take some time before booking a holiday to read through our safety tips and familiarise themselves with the small changes they can make to ensure they don’t get caught out by cyber criminals.”
If you have been a victim of fraud, it’s imperative that you report it and, if necessary, seek legal advice.
However, to avoid getting scammed altogether, ABTA, Get Safe Online and Action Fraud have compiled a list of top tips of how you can spot potential fraudsters and ensure your travel agent is legitimate:
1. Do your research. In the same way you would research a hotel or restaurant, it’s important that you don’t rely on just one review and you do a thorough online check of your company’s credentials, according to ABTA. If a company has been defrauding customers, it’s more than likely that people would have posted about it online.
2. Check the web address. It’s important to check that the web address is legitimate and hasn’t been altered by slight changes to a domain name – such as going from .co.uk to .org. You should also look out for misspellings and additional words or characters as these can indicate that it’s untrustworthy.
3. Check the logo. Check whether the company is a member of a recognised trade body such as ABTA. If you have any doubts, you can verify membership of ABTA online. To be 100 per cent safe, you could also check to see if the travel agent is registered with one of the major consortia, e.g. Advantage, Hays and Travel Network Group. This will guarantee their authority.
4. Pay safe. Wherever possible, you should pay by credit card as this offers you far more protection against fraud and be wary about paying directly into a private individual’s bank account, even if it means you get a discount, as this could be a scam.
5. Check paperwork. It’s a good idea to study receipts, invoices as well as terms and conditions. It may be laborious, but you’ll be able to spot things that don’t look right and be very wary of any companies that don’t provide any at all. When booking through a Holiday Club or Timeshare, make sure to get the contract thoroughly vetted by a solicitor before signing up.
6. Use your instincts. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, says ABTA.
7. Finally, report it. Victims should contact Action Fraud via actionfraud.police.uk.
After you’ve reported the crime, then you may need to seek legal help. The expert team at Criminal Defence Solicitors has extensive expertise in different cases of serious and complex crimes, including cases of fraud.