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Holiday fraud

Fraudsters promote several plans and travel deals and use sophisticated mechanisms to trick travellers into paying for non-existent holidays and services. 

They may use fabricated tactics, flooding you with social media advertisements featuring pictures of some unique holiday locations, villas, cottages and hotels, which can be too good to be true. The time the holidaymakers realise the prices are unrealistic and pictures are fake, the fraudsters take their money and disappear.

What Is It?

Scammers trick you into investing in non-existent holiday services. Sometimes, they want you to pay by cash or bank transfer or through other services like Western Union, where you cannot trace the transaction details. 

Once the transfer is made for a non-existent holiday deal, hotel, or airline ticket, you realise the transaction is non-refundable and lose all the paid amount. 

Protect Yourself

  1. Scammers offer different prices, which can be lower than the regular cost of a similar holiday. It is true even for airline tickets; you must be warned if the price seems too low.

  2. Always check the reviews of the booking agents and the site offering the holiday packages and check the reviews across independent sites.

  3. If you are paying for a holiday, use a secure payment method hosted on a reputed company website; however, if you want to pay through bank transfer, research and telephone to verify the bank details sent by email.

  4. It is advised to pay for a holiday via credit card to get some protection or a chance to recover money lost in unscrupulous transactions.  

  5. Criminals are experts in creating official-looking websites, which can be extremely convincing. However, when you carefully examine the site content, the website may not appear genuine, or there may be mistakes in spelling in various sections of the content. 

  6. Don’t reply to unsolicited emails, messages, social media or calls offering holiday packages. Also, do not click on links and attachments in emails offering holidays, which may lead you to malicious websites or downloading viruses.

  7. Always book a holiday directly with an airline, hotel, or reputable agent. Always check whether the travel agent is registered to the authentic ABTA website to ensure you book with the right firm. 

  8. If you deal with the property or a letting agent, ask them about the hotel, location and area. Don’t book through websites without a padlock icon (HTTPS), and be extra cautious if you’re asked to pay using bank transfer or cash. Always pay by credit or debit card if possible, as it helps trace the transaction. 

Spot the Signs

  • You are contacted by an unknown travel agent or company you’ve never spoken to, offering a very low-cost holiday deal.

  • The holiday property or hotel on offer looks doubtful and fails to provide independent website reviews.

  • You’re asked to pay using a bank transfer or cash.

How Does It Happen?

It can be a passport, refund, flight scam or hotel scam. Most fraudsters take advantage of the disruptions caused by the industrial action of the Passport Office workers, and they offer fake fast-track services where they send emails to the target offering quick passport renewals. 

For example, when passport office workers were on strike in England from 3 April 2023 to 5 May 2023, scammers took to social media to contact those who wanted a fast-track passport. 

They asked for a fee to process the passport, but it must be known that no third party other than the HM Passport Office can provide passports.

Similarly, during the pandemic, many were seeking refunds on their holidays, and the hackers posed as third-party booking sites, banks, or airlines promised a refund, only to get a click on their link that redirected to the websites that requested the user’s bank details. 

Similarly, they offer cheap flight tickets to pull you into a money laundering scam. Fraudsters use fake online hotel ads with attractive pictures and make bogus calls, send emails and text messages to offer cheap rates to tempt you into booking a holiday or a flight. 

They steal images of hotels from other travel websites and ask you to pay in cash or via a bank transfer, such as MoneyWise or Western Union, to book the hotel. 

Mostly, the victims do not see that they are pushed into a scam until they arrive at the airport, where they find their flight reservations were not made and the booking in a specific hotel did not exist.

In some cases, the fraudster may completely end contact after you’ve paid, and they may not even confirm your booking, 

How do I report it? 

If you suspect any such fraud has been committed, raise concerns, contact the Office of the Public Guardian and report to Action Fraud.

The passport office has warned the victims about the risk of losing personal data and money to scammers offering low-cost holiday packages, as no third party other than the HM Passport Office can ever provide work on their behalf. 

Date Published: Sep 11, 2023

Types of fraud

A-Z of fraud

To help understand which fraud you've been affected by, we've categorised them into an alphabetical list.

What is fraud and cyber crime?

Cybercrimes can be of two types. First, it can be cyber dependent, where the fraudsters use online devices to convince the victim to accept their offers.

Advance fee fraud

If you are trying to get a loan for a house or a car, they ask to meet the provider to get the financing arrangement and pay the finder's fee in advance.

Corporate fraud

Corporate frauds can be complicated, committed either by the firm or an individual. Nevertheless, it mostly involves cheating where the employee or the firm.

Individual fraud

There are many types of individual frauds related to advance fees, investments, insurance brokers, bogus tradespeople, Ponzi schemes, pension liberation.

Online fraud

Hence the number of cases of online fraud is increasing each year, and most such cases include – account takeover, direct frauds, or scams related domain names.

Identity fraud and identity theft

The criminal uses the stolen identity of another person living or deceased to conduct unlawful activities like obtaining goods or services in another's name.

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