The worst types of holiday fraud

Last year fraudsters stole £1.5million from holidaymakers. Here's how they did it and how to avoid becoming a victim.

Holidaymakers lost out on a total of £1.5million last year in 1,000 cases of holiday fraud.
The most common, which made up 45% of cases, were websites selling fake plane tickets which customers paid for but never arrived.%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
Accommodation, luggage and visa applications were also targetted as fraudsters conned holidaymakers out of their cash.

The reseach from the City of London Police's National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) also found that men were more likely to be victims of holiday fraud than women.

Holiday fraud
One in three people who reported cases of holiday fraud were scammed when trying to make accommodation bookings. These typically happened when a customer booked a hotel or villa and on arrival found out it didn't exist.

The two key areas for this kind of fraud were Spain and London and the rise of self-catering accommodation, where the owner liaises directly with the traveller, has been blamed for the rise in this type of fraud.

Holiday-goers booking packaged deals are also at risk as fraudsters see them as an easy target.

This often happens when someone books a package deal which includes an event, such as The Ashes, because tickets may be hard to get hold of and expensive. With packages like this people are more likely to be conned because they're desperate to get their hands on tickets.

Another area tourists are getting conned is buying visas. Fraudsters have used the visa system to steal money and private information by setting up copycat websites, especially for the ESTA visa for the US.

Fraud protection
Although everyone is at risk from holiday fraud, men are more likely than women to be victims and it's most common for those aged 30-49 to be caught out.

The main reason for becoming a victim is not doing the proper research before booking a trip. One in ten travellers don't research the travel company they're booking with, according to a YouGov poll for ABTA, and a quarter are willing to pay our £200 or more for a deposit to secure the booking.

The warning today comes as part of a campaign launched by ABTA, Get Safe Online, Action Fraud and NFIB. It's expected the actual figures are much higher than the 1,000 quoted as these are only the figures for the reported cases.

Don't become a victim of the fraudsters
There are lots of things you can do to avoid becoming a victim of holiday fraud.

Do your homework
The number one tool to protect yourself from fraud is doing your homework and researching the companies you're booking with. This will give you an idea if they actually exist and how reputable they are before you arrive. Googling the company and finding an address and phone number is also a good plan.

When booking a packaged holiday make sure the company you've chosen is a member of a trade association such as ABTA or the Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (Atol).

If it is you'll be fully protected should anything go wrong with any part of the package. This will either be through a refund or a holiday rep organising alternative flights or accommodation for you.

Get the right insurance
If you book your holiday independently you have less protection than when booking a package. However, if you have the right travel insurance in place you should be covered if something goes wrong with any part of the trip.

Always check the small print before you buy a policy to make sure you are in fact covered and keep a record of anything you need to pay out for, such as a night's hotel stay, so you can claim this back when you get home.

Read our article - How to get top travel insurance for your holiday - to make sure you're fully covered.

Pay on credit card
Buying anything on a credit card gives you a little more protection if your purchase is worth £100 or more. This is because under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 the retailer and the credit card provider are jointly liable to cover the cash if something goes wrong.

This also counts towards partial payments, for example if you paid £50 in cash and £50 on your credit card. Before you make any payments, make sure the site you're using is secure. It should have a small padlock in the address bar and the address needs to begin with 'shttp' or 'https'.

You can find out more about this protection in our guide The benefits of using a credit card.

Check reviews
Before you set off, or even before you've picked your accommodation or travel, read the reviews. If there is anything dodgy about the company it's likely to have been written about by a fellow traveller so check websites such as TripAdvisor for clues.

If you've had a bad experience – with a hotel you've paid for but then doesn't exist, for example, - make sure you report it and alert to ActionFraud so other travellers are aware and the company can be investigated.

The five worst holiday disasters
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The worst types of holiday fraud

If you are a victim of a strike, or any other event beyond the airline's control (including ash clouds!), they must offer you a refund (in which case it's up to you to find a way home) or an alternative flight. While you are waiting for the flight you have the right to food and refreshment and accommodation.

If you are on a package holiday, your tour operator is entirely responsible for looking after you until you get back to the UK.

This is more likely to happen due to the financial crisis, but in some situations you are covered. 

If you pay by credit card and it's over £100, you'll get a refund from the card company. 

Your travel insurance may well cover you too, but check before you go.  

Talk to the airline, and if it is temporarily misplaced they should arrange for it to be sent to your accommodation, and you should be either given cash to cover the essentials in the interim.

If it's completely lost you must wait 21 days and then make a claim for compensation. If you are travelling as part of a package you can claim costs from your operator.

If you are travelling within the EU you need an EHIC card, which gives you access to public healthcare. However, this won't necessarily be free, and if you need extra services such as accommodation for a carer, a helicopter home or a delayed flight, you could end up seriously out of pocket.

The only protection that will guarantee you will be looked after without running up a horrendous debt is by having travel insurance - which often covers up to £10 million of costs.

The most common form of theft is pick-pocketing, followed by theft from a car and bag snatching. Meanwhile, 752,000 of those surveyed had items stolen from their hotel room or villa.

If you have anything stolen, your only protection is insurance. You need to tell the local police immediately and get a crime reference for your travel insurer.

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