Unsuspecting British holidaymakers are being conned out of approximately £7 million a year by fraudsters, according to a new police report - and experts are warning that scams could get worse in 2014.
Common scams and rip-offs among fraudsters include issuing travellers with fake airline tickets (with flights to West Africa a particular target) and selling holiday accommodation that doesn't exist.
During a 12-month period more than 4,500 cases of holiday booking fraud were reported, according to the City of London Police's National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB).
Fraud included fake packages for the Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia and also for the Ryder Cup.
The NFIB, travel organisation Abta and the Get Safe Online initiative are all warning of possible fraud ahead of the Ryder Cup this year and also this summer's football World Cup in Brazil and the Commonwealth Games in Scotland.
The report showed that 30 per cent of holiday fraud victims in 2013 were scammed by the fraudulent advertisement of holiday villas and apartments, with some arriving at their destination to discover they had nowhere to stay. Airline ticket fraud accounted for around 21 per cent of the total scams.
The couple was stranded in a blizzard after paying a bogus company for a lodge that did not exist.
It had been advertised on Facebook and through a professional-looking website but it turned out that photos of the lodge had been taken from another legitimate website that had nothing to do with the firm Mrs Parks dealt with.
Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: "Fraudsters are conning unsuspecting holidaymakers and travellers out of thousands of pounds each year - leaving them out of pocket or stranded with nowhere to stay through fake websites, false advertising, bogus phone calls and email scams."
NFIB director Detective Superintendent Peter O'Doherty said: "The internet has changed the way we look for and book our holidays. Unfortunately it is also enabling fraudsters to prey upon those looking for that perfect break."
Get Safe Online chief executive Tony Neate said it was vital for holidaymakers to do their research before booking.
Have you ever fallen victim to a holiday scam? Let us know in the comments below.
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