How to spot a holiday booking scam

Holiday scams

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.

SEE ALSO: Charity warning after 91-year-old scammed out of life savings

See also: Could you be the victim of these travel health disasters and rip offs?

Warning signs

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

Protect yourself
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.

Victims of scams and fraud
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Victims of scams and fraud
Susan Tollefsen, Britain's oldest first time mother, was scammed out of £160,000 by a fraudster she met on an online dating site. A man claiming to be an Italian gold and diamond dealer told her he was in the middle of a land deal but couldn't access cash. Tollefsen felt sorry for him and started wiring him money, eventually selling her jewellery, her flat and borrowing £32,000 from friends to give him. Read the full story here.
In March 2015 an American woman who was only identified as 'Sarah' went on the popular US television programme the Dr Phil Show to reveal she had sent $1.4 million to a man that she had never met. Although she was certain she wasn't being scammed, her cousin made her go on the programme because she was convinced it was a scam. Find out more about the story here.
Maggie Surridge employed Lee Slocombe to lay a £350 deck in her garden in March 2015. However Slocombe used a combination of lies to scam Surridge out of thousands of pounds. He told Surridge that the front and back walls were dangerous and needed rebuilding and also conned her into building a porch, all for the cost of £8,500. Read the full story here.
It's not just individuals who can be the victims of scams, big corporations can also fall foul of these fraudulent practices. In 2015 Claire Dunleavy repeatedly used a 7p 'reduced' sticker to get significant amounts of money off her shopping at an Asda store in Burslem, ending up with her paying just £15.66 for a shop that should have cost £69.02. Read the full story here.
Sylvia Kneller, 76, was conned out of £200,000 over the space of 56 years thanks to scam mail. The pensioner became addicted to responding to the fraudsters, convinced that she would one day win a fortune. Ms Kneller would receive letters claiming she had won large sums of money but she needed to send processing fees to claim her prize. Learn about the full story here
Leslie Jubb, 103, became Britain's oldest scam victim in August last year when he was conned out of £60,000 after being sent an endless stream of catalogues promising prizes in return for purchasing overpriced goods. The extent of this con was discovered when Mr Jubb temporarily moved into a care home and his family discovered what he had lost. Find out more about this story here
Stephen Cox won more than £100,000 on the National Lottery in 2003 but has been left with nothing after falling victim to two conmen. The 63-year-old was pressured into handing over £60,000 to the men who told him his roof needed fixing. They walked him into banks and building societies persuading him to part with £80,000 of cash while doing no work in return. See the full story here
Last year the Metropolitan Police released CCTV footage of a woman who had £250 stolen at a cash machine in Dagenham. The scam involved two men distracting the woman at the machine, pressing the button for £250 then taking the money and running away. Read about the full story here.
Rebecca Ferguson shot to fame as a runner up on the X-Factor in 2010 but fell victim to a scam artist last year when someone she had believed to be a friend conned her out of £43,000. Rachel Taylor befriended the singer in 2012 and claimed to be a qualified accountant, so Ferguson allowed her to look after her finances. Instead of doing this Taylor stole £43,000 from the Liverpudlian singer. Read more here
When Rebecca Lewis discovered her fiance had started a relationship with a woman he met online she packed her bags to leave. But that didn't stop her checking out the mystery woman, Rebecca quickly realised Paul Rusher's new love was actually part of a romance scam. She told Paul just before he sent the scammers £2,000 which was supposed to bring his new girlfriend to England. Find the full story here.

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