Leading travel association ABTA is warning holidaymakers about the risks of booking a holiday with a bogus company. In 2016, 6,000 unsuspecting people fell victim to companies operating fake websites, online scams and non-compliant travel companies with no financial protection in place. Fraudsters stole a staggering £7.2m with £1,200 the average amount lost per person. The number of reported cases has risen almost 20% year on year.
ABTA has compiled these tips to help you avoid scams:
Travel businesses not providing the required financial protection
Last year, more than 100 travel businesses were identified by ABTA as selling package holidays without having proper financial protection in place, and referred to the relevant authorities. All package holidays sold in the UK should include protection, where holidaymakers are not only entitled to a refund or repatriation, should their travel company go out of business, but also other specific legal rights, should there be a problem with the holiday. People booking a holiday that is ATOL protected should always receive an ATOL Certificate.
Some websites are set up purely to defraud customers, and these scam or fraudulent websites are an area of growing concern for ABTA. On a legitimate website, there should be a locked padlock symbol in the browser window frame, which appears when you attempt to log in or register, or the web address should begin with ‘https://’.
These are websites that are copies of a genuine site with subtle changes made. Fraudsters can clone legitimate websites but will change the last part of the web address, such as from .co.uk to .org. They can also produce a realistic-looking website, but with the spelling of the address slightly different from that of the authentic site. Check that the website address that appears in the top window is correct. If you are suspicious of a website, carry out a web search to see if you can find out whether or not it is fraudulent.
Payment via bank transfers
Be suspicious when the only payment option is a bank transfer. Not only is this an indication that no bank is prepared to provide credit card facilities, but if you are dealing with a scammer it will be virtually impossible to get your money back.
Some fraudulent companies may falsely use logos of official bodies such as ATOL, or of organisations such as ABTA and IATA. If the company you are using claims to be a member of a trade association, you should be able to easily verify membership on the trade association’s website, for example on ABTA's find a member.
Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive, commented: “Booking a holiday should be an exciting experience, however it can be ruined by clever and unscrupulous scams. We have seen a significant increase in fraudulent activity over the past year, so we are encouraging all holidaymakers to stop and think about the company they are booking with. I would encourage people to book with an ABTA travel company, so they can rest assured that their holiday company is genuine and covered by our Code of Conduct.”
What to do if you’re a victim of fraud
If you’ve been the victim of a travel-related fraud, register your complaint online to the police at Action Fraud online or by speaking to a specialist fraud and cyber-crime adviser on 0300 123 2040.
- Read why you need an EHIC when you travel in Europe and 5 tips when buying travel insurance for a cruise
- ABTA has produced a fraud free travel video