Coronavirus: avoiding holiday fraud
9 April 2020
We have seen a sharp rise in holidaymakers being contacted by criminals purporting to be from travel companies, tour operators and insurers offering to refund or rebook cancelled holidays.
‘Fraudsters are always quick to find new ways to trick people into parting with their money or personal information, and the coronavirus pandemic is giving them additional opportunities to take advantage of people’s uncertainty and fears,’ shared our CEO, Mike Haley, following the TUI and Jet2 travel cancellations.
Many would be surprised to see how easy it has become to become one of the scammers – it’s no longer just the tech junkies and hackers. We are now in the age of fraud as a service.
Scammers typically contact potential victims via cold calls, phishing emails and text messages. The communications sound professional and many fall for how legitimate it appears. Victims are led to sophisticated websites that include all the bells and whistles of the authentic website, usually including a working customer service chat box.
Post COVID-19 holiday surge
We reached out to ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) for some advice on how consumers can avoid getting scammed. While holiday bookings are down to an unprecedented low, they are estimating a surge of bookings later this year when life returns to normal.
The most common scams ABTA sees is 'flight only' or 'accomodation only' - which simply means not purchasing a holiday package that includes both the flight and accommodation. This is notably common for more luxurious villas. These scams have become increasingly more sophisticated over the years and a lot harder to spot, particularly for those whom don’t book holidays often.
ABTA warns to watch out for these three major warning signs:
- The offer has unlimited availability.
- The price is lower than expected – ex. £8000 villa priced at £6000.
- Requiring you to pay via bank transfer into an individual’s account.
ABTA warns that through their experience, if all three of these signs are present it is almost certainly a scam.
While asking for a bank transfer is not very common, that alone does not mean it is a scam. Some accommodations decide to do this simply to reduce fees the banks charge when processing credit and debit cards. If you are paying via a bank transfer, ensure the transfer is into a business’s account and not an individual’s – and of course always do plenty of research before you send money or offer any personal and financial information.
Has your holiday been cancelled?
If you have been affected by the recent travel cancellations it is best to contact the party you booked your holiday with directly, and do not use the contact information or links in an email or text message from someone claiming to be your holiday provider.
If you receive a suspicious text message about your holiday then report it to your network provider by forwarding it to 7726.
If you believe to have been the victim of a scam, you must contact your bank or financial service provider immediately and report the fraud to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or www.actionfraud.police.uk.
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