Consumers are being warned about an increase in holiday scams, including fake social media accounts cashing in on the boom in staycations.
Glamping specialist Canopy & Stars has noticed a rise in scams where fraudsters advertise “too good to be true” accommodation on platforms such as Instagram.
Managing director Mike Bevens warns: “We have noticed some of our popular spaces, already booked up for August, being advertised via what look like sham social accounts. We are asking guests to be aware and be vigilant.”
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Fraud prevention service Cifas recorded a sharp rise in holidaymakers being contacted by fraudsters masquerading as travel companies and tour operators, and offering to refund or rebook cancelled flights and holidays. Scammers typically contact potential victims via cold calls, phishing emails and text messages.
Banking industry body UK Finance is urging holidaymakers due refunds to be vigilant. “It’s important to question any emails, phone calls or social media posts offering refunds for cancelled holidays, and not to click on links or attachments in case it’s a scam,” says Katy Worobec, the trade body’s managing director of economic crime.
£7 million stolen from unsuspecting holidaymakers
Fraudsters stole over £7 million from UK travellers in 2018 – the most recent figures available. The average amount lost was £1,380 per person and over half of the crimes reported involved fake airline tickets, while 25 per cent related to the sale of accommodation.
As well as posting sham adverts on social media, fraudsters send emails offering bargain prices, create copycat websites that look almost identical to the legitimate site and post fake listings to popular booking portals such as Airbnb.
This year Action Fraud received 1681 reports of rental fraud from 1 January to 30 June, with reported losses of £2.2 million – an increase of 333 per cent compared to the first six months of 2019.
“As the nation seeks to book last-minute getaways, concerns that holiday booking fraud could be on the rise shouldn’t be a reason to stop you from booking your break online,” says Get Safe Online’s chief executive Tony Neate, who advised consumers to do all they can to check that holiday accommodation actually exists and that the company advertising it is authorised to do so.
He warns against relying on customer reviews, adding: “Trust your instincts – don’t get rushed into making impulsive decisions. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.”
How to spot a scam
- Check the web address is legitimate and has not been altered by slight changes to a domain name – such as going from .co.uk to .org
- Do a thorough online search to check the company’s credentials and check whether it’s a member of a recognised trade body such as ABTA
- If renting a private apartment or villa, call the owner or agent directly to ensure that it is legitimate. If the number is not provided, email and request it. Get the full address of the property and find it on Google Maps
- Wherever possible, pay by credit card and be wary of paying either a private individual or company by bank transfer
- Report anything you think is fraudulent to Action Fraud