Scamwatch: dodgy holiday websites

Jess Bown
airplane taking off at sunset....
airplane taking off at sunset....

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, the online travel scams that cost British tourists close to £12 million last year.

How does it work?

Thousands of Britons were taken in by fake travel websites last year. On average, they lost £3,000 each.

Some of the scams were linked to home letting websites such as Airbnb.

Reported problems include listed properties turning out to be double booked or simply not exist. In other instances, legitimate accounts were hacked by fraudsters who used them to steal holidaymakers' cash.

There were also a number of cases where people were tricked into booking flights on fake airline ticket websites offering "cheap" fares.

How can I avoid being caught out?

The easiest way to protect yourself against holiday fraud 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, and make sure that the travel and accommodation details on any paperwork you receive match those you booked.

Where possible, it is sensible to pay by credit card so that you benefit from the protection offered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, which states that credit card providers are jointly and severally liable when things go wrong.

Be wary too about paying property owners on websites such as Airbnb by bank transfer or instant wire services, as these types of payment are often linked to fraud.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?

If you paid by credit card, you may be able to get your money back from the card provider - as long as the amount paid out is at least £100.

Report the crime to the police via Action Fraud (0300 123 2040) and get a crime reference number. Then contact your credit card company to see if you can get a refund.

If the company you booked with is a member of a trade organisation such as ABTA, you can also ask it to investigate a complaint on your behalf.

India tour: Kate's foreign fashion
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