Family's New York holiday wrecked: apartment doesn't exist

How can you protect yourself from holiday fraud?

Online accommodation booking concept. Smartphone and system  hotel reservations on the screen. 3d

A family of eight was left stranded on freezing New York streets, after the holiday apartment they'd booked turned out not to exist.

The Baker family, from Derbyshire, used the Hotels.com lettings website to book a $1,100 break in a three-bedroom apartment in Manhattan.

But when they arrived in the evening, after a six-hour flight, they found address looked nothing like the picture. The block was locked, and the phone numbers they'd been given were permanently engaged.

The Bakers - including three children aged eight, six and one - were left stranded at nine o'clock at night with nowhere to go.

Scamwatch: dodgy holiday websites

"It was the holidays, we had just come off a long flight and were so worried," Vince tells the Express.

"Finding another place took us several more hours, and after that we had to check every day that our new hotel was able to guarantee us a place that night. Sometimes we had to change rooms and couldn't fully relax the whole trip."

Hotels.com has refunded the family - and given them £1,250 in compensation. It says it's now stopped taking bookings for the apartment.

Fake winter holiday websites scam £60,000 from unsuspecting Brits

As people book more and more holidays online, they become more vulnerable to fraudsters. According to the City of London Police's National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, scammers stole £11.5 million from unsuspecting travellers in 2015. The average loss was almost £3,000.

Often, the entire booking website is a fake.

"We live in a world where we are under pressure to get things done quickly. However, when booking a holiday it is vitally important you take your time and follow a number of basic checks designed to protect you from falling victim to a fraud," says Commander Chris Greany, police national coordinator for economic crime.

"These include researching the name of the company online you are considering using and ensuring it is a member of a recognised trade body. It is also key that you make sure the website is legitimate by carefully checking the domain name and pay with a credit card rather than using a debit card or cash."

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In other cases, like that of the Bakers, a fake listing is placed on a genuine site. To protect yourself, it's essential to always deal with a property's owner through the website.

Even more importantly, you should always use the website's official payment system - alarm bells should ring if you're asked to pay in cash or via a bank transfer such as MoneyWise or Western Union, as you then won't be able to get your money back.


Holiday of a lifetime

Holiday of a lifetime