Travel Association ABTA is urging football fans to be on their guard when booking travel to Brazil for the World Cup.
With less than a month to go, tickets, hotels and flights are in short supply and commanding sky-high prices. And, says ABTA, this makes the event a prime target for fraudsters. According to the City of London Police, ten percent of all incidents of holiday booking fraud in 2013 related to packages, and in particular to trips to major sporting and religious events.
"We are expecting tens of thousands of fans to head out to Brazil and have a wonderful time soaking up the World Cup atmosphere and enjoying this vibrant country," says Victoria Bacon, ABTA's head of communications. "Fans heading out last minute should ensure they book with a reputable travel company who can take the hassle out of travelling to Brazil."
ABTA's 1,200 members agree to abide by a strict code of conduct, with ABTA offering financial protection and redress when something goes wrong.
"As well as offering financial protection these companies will be able to advise on things such as vaccinations and passport requirements," says Bacon. "It's also vital that fans take out adequate travel insurance and follow Foreign Office advice regarding health and safety."
"Over the last few weeks we have unfortunately seen more and more people leaving our ticket centres disappointed as they failed to collect their tickets purchased through unofficial websites," says FIFA marketing director Thierry Weil. "FIFA cancels tickets discovered as illegally sold or resold, with the bearers risking not being permitted entry into 2014 FIFA World Cup matches."
Meanwhile, warns police fraud and internet crime reporting centre Action Fraud, people looking for accommodation for the World Cup have responded to false online advertisements and made payments for apartments that appear not to exist. The centre has teamed up with ABTA, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau and Get Safe On-line to alert users about how to spot a booking con.
"Don't just rely on one review – do a thorough online search to ensure the company is credible. If they're suspect, other people may well have posted their experiences warning people off," they warn.
"It is best to pay on credit card so that your purchase is protected. You should never pay directly into an owner's bank account; paying by direct bank transfer is like paying by cash – the money will not be traceable."