Holiday booking scams were up a fifth last year, with almost 6,000 reported cases, and an average of £1,200 lost to the fraudsters. The most common scams include fake plane tickets and holiday accommodation scams. It's therefore vital to know the signs you are being ripped off, and the steps you should take to protect yourself.
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There are a few signs that a deal may be too good to be true:
1. A particularly cheap online deal.
2. Availability you cannot get anywhere else
3. An incredible offer from a company you have never heard of before
4. Being asked to pay outside the official website
5. Being asked to pay by bank transfer
6. A great offer from a recently-listed property - with no reviews
7. Being offered a free holiday
There are some vital steps you ought to take, in order to stay safe from the scammers:
1. Only book with an organisation you trust. It's important to research them online, to get an understanding of their reputation. It's also essential to check they are a member of a trade body like ABTA and that they are ATOL protected.
You may well find a deal that's too good to be true on a website you've never seen or heard of before, but unless you do the right checks, there's always a risk the website disappears overnight, leaving you with nothing.
2. It's easy for a company to claim ATOL protection and ABTA membership, so don't take this at face value: make sure you check with the organisation itself.
3. It's also relatively easy to clone the website of a reputable company, so check you have exactly the right web address for them - and that everything is spelled correctly.
4. Don't pay by bank transfer, as you have no recourse if the booking is fraudulent. Ideally pay by credit card, which will offer you an additional protection if the deal turns out to be a scam.
5. Only pay through a company's official process. If you have an email requesting payment, take the time to check it's genuine. Some holiday rental companies have had their email accounts hacked in the past, and fraudsters were able to send requests for money, so take the time to call the company and check.
6. If you are booking direct with the owner, make sure they are listed on a reputable website. The safest bet is only to use accommodation that has been listed on the site for a long time and has a huge number of positive reviews. Again, when they send a request to pay, call them or contact them through the official site to check the request is real.
7. Take your time. Many victims say they were in a rush, or trying to get a deal before it expired, so they didn't take the time to think things through. If you feel under pressure to make a decision, or spend money on the spot, then alarm bells should start ringing.