Scamwatch: dodgy holiday booking sites

Beware fake websites and social media travel deals

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Scamwatch: dodgy holiday booking sites

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 explain how to avoid being taken in by holiday booking scams.

How does it work?

The number of people duped by fake holiday booking offers shot up by 20% last year, according to the latest figures from the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA).

Its research indicates that holidaymakers lost a whopping £7.2 million to such scams in 2016.

Common tools used by the fraudsters behind these scams include fake websites, rental listings, and social media pages designed to convince visitors to reserve non-existent accommodation, while other scams focus on selling bogus airline tickets.

The majority of those defrauded are persuaded to pay via bank transfers or in cash, and the scams often involve sports and religious trips, and timeshares and holiday clubs.

How can I avoid being caught out?

Always check out a company before making a holiday booking - especially if the deal seems too good to be true.

Ways to do this include looking to see if it is a member of ABTA and reading online reviews about the company.

Crime reporting agency Action Fraud said: "We recommend that people are thorough when researching their travel arrangements and book directly with an airline or hotel, or through a reputable agent."

Check too that the web address used has not been changed slightly, for example from .com to .co.uk, by fraudsters who have set up a copycat site.

You should also be very wary of any holiday company that asks you to pay for your booking by bank transfer or in cash.

Paying by credit card is always preferable as you will receive protection against fraud under the terms of the Consumer Credit Act, which states card providers are jointly and severally liable for any problems.

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.