Warning over fake holiday websites and bogus bookings
- Credit: PA
Holiday bargain hunters in Suffolk are being urged to "do their research" as fraudsters seek to capitalise on the 2022 summer boom in bookings.
As Covid-19 travel restrictions ease, many holidaymakers will return to overseas destinations this summer, with some searching for late or cheap deals.
But scammers are looking to exploit victims by offering counterfeit accommodation, impersonating legitimate travel companies and cloning airline and holiday websites, organisation Action Fraud said.
In some cases, victims have searched for flight tickets online and have found a website they believe to be the company’s genuine website.
In other cases, victims reported responding to an approach or advertisement on social media or using what they believed to be legitimate flight comparison websites to search for flights.
In both instances, victims reported being contacted by someone purporting to be from the airline, or flight comparison website, to take them through the booking procedure and take payment.
The fraudsters may completely end contact after receiving payment or provide the victim with fake booking information.
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In the financial year 2021/22, a total of 4,244 reports of holiday and travel related fraud were made to Action Fraud – a substantial increase of more than 120% when compared to the previous financial year.
Victims reported losing a total of £7,388,353 – an average loss of £1,868 per victim.
In Suffolk, around £757,300 was lost to consumer fraud over the past 13 months, while holiday club and time share scammers cost victims £17,500 over the same time frame, according to Action Fraud.
Andrew Reid, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for public health and public protection, urged people to do their research when looking for a holiday deal.
“Holiday scams have increased as fraudsters capitalise on customers starting to book trips abroad again after the pandemic," he said.
“We understand that people are excited to get away but would urge would-be holidaymakers to do their research and not let their guard down when hunting for a bargain.
“There are a few simple steps that everyone can take to protect themselves, including booking a holiday with a company that is ABTA or ATOL protected and paying by credit card to benefit from the protection offered by the Consumer Credit Act.
"People should also take their time to make sure any offers or deals are genuine, look for reviews for the travel company and avoid following links to purchase holidays on social media."
Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, said: “As the world begins to open up and travel restrictions relax further, it’s no surprise that more people are eager to get away and kick back with their loved ones after two years of lockdowns and restrictions.
“Unfortunately, we know that as demand for holidays soar, so does the number of scams and criminals are always finding new ways to catch people out and make them part with their hard earned cash.
“When booking a holiday here or abroad, it’s so important to do your research before handing over any money or personal details. Trust your instincts and remember, if a deal looks too good to be true, then it probably is.”