Sunday, November 19, 2017
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Holiday Booking Fraud 'Only Tip of the Iceberg'

The number of reported cases of holiday booking fraud has risen by a massive 20 per cent year on year.

This has prompted ABTA, the City of London Police and Get Safe Online to again join forces to warn the public about the dangers posed by holiday booking fraud.

Findings from a new report, compiled by the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, reveal the scale of reported crime, and expose common tactics used by fraudsters who stole £7.2 million from almost 6,000 unsuspecting holidaymakers and other travellers in 2016.

The number of reported cases has risen almost 20 per cent year on year from 4,910 to 5,826. The three campaign partners believe that these figures are only the tip of the iceberg with many victims not reporting the fact that they have been defrauded. The most common types of fraud relate to the sale of airline tickets, booking accommodation online as well as timeshare sales.

The average amount lost per person was approximately £1,200, but losses are not just financial they can also have an impact on health. Over a quarter (26 per cent) of victims say that the fraud had also had a significant impact on their health or financial well-being. Most worryingly of all, 259 people said the impact on them was severe, meaning that they had to receive medical treatment or were at risk of bankruptcy.

In common with previous years, the numbers of people reporting travel fraud to the police jumps in the summer and in December. This is a very clear indication, according to ABTA and its partners, that fraudsters are targeting the most popular travel periods. Customers may be particularly vulnerable in 2017 as the overseas travel industry is reporting good early booking levels with accommodation and flights at a premium. Fraudsters could take advantage of this by offering “good deals” over the summer. These will then fail to materialise, leaving people out of pocket and with either no flights or nowhere to stay.

The two age groups most commonly targeted are those aged 20-29 and 30-39, with older generations less likely to fall victim, particularly those over 50 who are perhaps more wary of “too good to be true” offers. The majority of those who are defrauded pay by methods such as bank transfer or cash with no means of getting their money back. Some fraudsters now actively encourage these payment methods by claiming that only these payment methods are protected by their own bogus insurance schemes.

Mark Tanzer ABTA Chief Executive said: “ABTA is regularly contacted by members of the public who have been caught out by increasingly sophisticated travel related frauds. We know at first-hand that the loss and shock of finding that your flight or holiday accommodation has not been booked can be very significant. Follow the tips we have put together in partnership with the City of London Police and Get Safe Online to avoid falling victim and to make sure your hard earned money goes towards your holiday and not lining the pockets of an unscrupulous crook.”

Deputy Head of Action Fraud, Steve Proffitt said: “Action Fraud has seen a consistent rise in the number of holiday fraud reports made over the past five years. We recommend that people are thorough when researching their travel arrangements and book directly with an airline or hotel, or through a reputable agent. When deciding to deal directly with a property owner or letting agent, ask them questions about the booking, room, location and area.

"From fraudulent flights to non-existent accommodation, the impact of falling victim to holiday fraud can be far greater than the financial loss and we hope that by raising awareness, people will feel better able to protect themselves from being a victim of fraud. We urge anyone who believes they have been a victim of fraud to visit and report the incident.”

Tony Neate of Get Safe Online said: “Holidays are something we all look forward to. They’re a chance for us to switch off, relax and spend time with our family and friends. Unfortunately, as the latest figures show, they are also the perfect opportunity for cybercriminals to swindle unsuspecting victims out of their hard-earned money – in the thousands in some cases. Holidays are big-ticket items for many of us, so it’s important that you take extra care when booking your holiday or flights online. Always do as much research as you can about the organisation you’re booking through, and ensure that they are a reputable travel operator that is a member of a recognised trade body like ABTA. By booking in haste you could not only risk losing a huge amount of money, but also disappoint family and friends when it comes to that long-awaited escape.”


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