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£7m 'holiday scams' uncovered

10 March 2014 09:10

Holiday scams are conning Brits out of £7m a year, police warn

Holiday scams are conning Brits out of £7m a year, police warn

Holidaymakers are falling victim to £7 million worth of travel scams each year, police chiefs have warned.

Fake airline tickets, hotel stays and sports tickets are among the rip-offs that unsuspecting travellers are falling victim to, according to a report by the City of London Police's National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB).

In one incident a couple was left more than £1,000 out of pocket after they were conned into booking a romantic Loch Ness holiday at a lodge that did not exist.

Bogus flight tickets are reported to be a relatively common sting - airline ticket fraud accounted for around one in five (21%) scams - with flights to West Africa said to be a particular target for fraudsters.

Other cases of fraud included fake packages for the Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia and others for golf's Ryder Cup.

Around one in three (30%) holiday fraud victims in 2013 were scammed by fraudulent adverts for holiday villas and apartments, with some even arriving at their destination before discovering they had nowhere to stay.

The Loch Ness fraud victims were Laura and Sean Parks from Thirsk in North Yorkshire, with Mrs Parks having bought a Loch Ness weekend Valentine's break when her husband, a soldier, was on leave from Afghanistan.

They found themselves stranded in a blizzard after paying a bogus company for a lodge that did not exist, which had been advertised on Facebook and through a professional-looking website but it transpired the photos of the lodge had been taken from another legitimate website that had nothing to do with the firm Mrs Parks dealt with.

Such unfortunate cases may serve as a warning for holidaymakers this year to do all they can to stick with high-quality and reliable travel insurance providers and bona fide travel companies and agents.

The NFIB, travel organisation Abta and the Get Safe Online initiative are all warning of possible fraud in what is a big sporting year that includes the Ryder Cup, the football World Cup in Brazil and the Commonwealth Games in Scotland.

An indication of the scale of the problem was shown in the report's finding that there were over 4,500 cases of holiday booking fraud reported in a 12-month period.

"Fraudsters are conning unsuspecting holidaymakers and travellers out of thousands of pounds each year - leaving them out of pocket or stranded with nowhere to stay through fake websites, false advertising, bogus phone calls and email scams," said Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer.

NFIB director Detective Superintendent Peter O'Doherty said the internet has changed the way we book holidays but unfortunately it has opened a new avenue for fraudsters.

It is crucial that holidaymakers do plenty of research before making bookings, added Get Safe Online chief executive Tony Neate.