Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.
This week, we zone in on the dodgy holiday companies that misrepresent their destinations and accommodation in sales material.
How does it work?
Have you ever arrived on holiday to find that your hotel bears little resemblance to the photos in the glossy brochure?
If so, you are not alone. New research from consumer website A Spokesman Said shows that 80% of travellers have gone on a holiday that was misrepresented in sales material.
In fact, nearly half have endured holidays that were "nothing like" what was advertised.
"For most people, holidays are the highlight of the year and are a significant financial investment, said Bill Akass at A Spokesman Said. "So the fact that so many holidaymakers feel cheated is deeply disappointing."
How can I avoid being caught out?
The easiest way to protect yourself against holiday sales misrepresentation is to only book trips directly with reputable travel companies, most of which are members of a trade body such as ABTA, the Travel Association or the Air Travel Organisers Licensing (ATOL).
You should also check the terms and conditions to confirm exactly what you are being sold before making a payment - and make sure that the travel and accommodation details on any paperwork you then receive match those you booked.
Where possible, it also makes sense to use a credit card to pay for your booking so that you can benefit from the protection offered by the Consumer Credit Directive.
It states that credit card companies are jointly and severally liable if you use their cards to buy goods or services that are not as advertised.
I've been defrauded. What should I do?
The first step if you feel tricked by a holiday company is to complain directly to the company in question, as this may turn out to be the quickest way to resolve the problem.
If you are still unhappy with how your complaint is handled, then check whether the company is a member of a trade body such as ABTA.
If it is, a complaint to the relevant trade body may have more success. And even if it is not, you may still be able to recoup any losses from your card provider if you paid by credit card.
In extreme cases, for example if your hotel turned out not to exist, you can also report the holiday company to Action Fraud (0300 123 2040).