Your break shouldn't break youSummer in the UK has been a bit of a wash-out this year and naturally it’s led to more people looking for bargains to get away and find some sun. Scammers are taking advantage of this and more and more are faking websites, setting up fake ads and cloning holiday sites as fake travel agencies.
Wed 16 Aug 2023
5 min read
In 2021/22 there were more than 4,244 reports of travel related fraud in the UK with victims losing an average of £1,868.
Fake ads or offers of sun and luxury often start out by popping up on social media and rental sites. They’ll offer discounts for the ideal villa or idyllic country escape. They’ll often ask you to pay a deposit via a money transfer service or a deposit via bank transfer. You need to transfer the money to secure the ‘too good to be true’ offer.
Here is some of the scam activity to look out for:
- Fake travel agencies or websites: Scammers create fake travel agency websites or listings on popular vacation rental platforms, offering attractive deals on flights, accommodations, and vacation packages. Unsuspecting travellers might book and pay for these services, only to find out later that the bookings are non-existent
- Fake ads: The criminals may steal images of hotels or rented apartments from other travel websites and pass them off as their own. If you respond to a fake ad, it can lead you all the way to your holiday destination where you discover that the accommodation or holiday doesn’t exist, leaving you away from home, distraught with nowhere to stay
- Phishing emails and calls: Scammers send out fake emails or make phone calls posing as legitimate travel agencies, airlines, or hotels. These messages may claim that the recipient has won a prize or a free vacation package. The victims are then asked to provide personal information or pay certain fees to claim their "prize," which is actually a scam
- Cloned holiday booking websites: Criminals often clone legitimate holiday booking websites; this is done so they can steal your money and/or payment details.
- Fake passport websites: You don’t want to give criminals all the information you would give to the passport office
- Timeshare resale scams: Fraudulent companies claim to help timeshare owners sell or rent their vacation properties, charging upfront fees for their services. In reality, these companies often fail to deliver on their promises, leaving the owners out of pocket
- Holiday rental scams: Scammers create fake listings for vacation rentals on websites, requesting upfront payment or deposits from potential renters. After the payment is made, victims find out that the rental property doesn't exist or isn't available for rent
- Cancellation scams: When your flight or hotel is cancelled, it can feel like your holiday is ruined. Criminals are using this scenario to offer fake refunds. We have seen examples of criminals sending fake scam emails or calling you up asking for you to pay an administration fee to get a refund that doesn’t exist. We have also seen criminals using social media platforms to fake accounts to offer help for refunds that don't exist
- Airline ticket scams: Scammers offer fake or heavily discounted airline tickets, often through social media platforms. After payment is made, victims receive fake or invalid tickets
- Public Wi-Fi vulnerabilities: While travelling, using public Wi-Fi networks to make bookings or transactions can expose personal and financial information to hackers, leading to identity theft or unauthorised access to accounts
- Fake travel insurance: Scammers sell fake or non-existent travel insurance policies, leaving travellers without proper coverage in case of emergencies
- QR code parking scams: A lot of car parks now require online payment using a QR code. Criminals are replacing the QR code with their own, which directs the user to a fake site where they put in their payment details
- Free USB charging points: A free phone-charging point at the airport may be just what you are looking for, especially if your battery is low and all of your tickets are stored on your phone. Criminals can use the technology of charging points to access information stored on phones. Through the USB ports, criminals can introduce malware and monitoring software onto devices, giving criminals the ability to access your personal information — from emails to credit card numbers.
So how can you avoid falling for a holiday scam?
Tips to Avoid Holiday Scams:
- Out of the blue?: Were you contacted out of the blue by a travel agent or company you’ve never spoken to before, offering a holiday at a very low price. This is a warning sign
- Research: Thoroughly research any travel agency, accommodation, or deal before making any payments. Look for online reviews and check the legitimacy of the company
- Use reputable websites: Stick to well-known and reputable travel booking websites, airlines, and accommodation platforms
- Check the web address: Check the website address carefully to make sure it’s the official one and avoid clicking on links that are sent in emails or text messages. If in doubt, type in the official website address yourself and check the website out on check a website
- Secure payment: Use secure payment methods like credit cards, which offer some level of fraud protection. Avoid making payments through bank transfers or money wiring services
- Beware of too-good-to-be-true deals: If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers often use attractive deals to lure in victims
- Check for HTTPS: Make sure the website's URL starts with "https://" and has a padlock symbol in the address bar, indicating a secure connection. Unfortunately these days this can also be faked - so use this as just one of your checks
- Protect personal information: Never share sensitive personal information over email or phone unless you are certain of the recipient's identity
- Be cautious on public Wi-Fi: Avoid making financial transactions or sharing personal information while connected to public Wi-Fi networks. To protect yourself on public Wifi networks, you can use a virtual private network (VPN), to keep your connection secure and protect your personal data and activity as you bank, shop and browse online
- Verify prize claims: If you receive an email or call claiming you've won a vacation prize, verify the legitimacy of the claim through official channels
- ABTA: Book a holiday directly with an airline or hotel, or through an agent you have checked out. Check whether they’re a member of the Association of British Travel Agents
- Don’t be pushed: Don’t be pressured to hand over your details, and if you are at all concerned, don’t do it at all until you’ve checked out the people involved. Don’t click on links or emails and contact the holiday booking company or airline directly. The most important thing to remember is that a genuine business won’t try to rush you and they won't mind if you do check on the offer they are making.
If you encounter a potential holiday scam, report it to the appropriate authorities, such as Action Fraud in the UK, and consider sharing your experience to help others avoid falling victim to similar scams.
If you think you’ve received a phishing email, don’t engage. Just forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org and then delete it.
Give your data a holiday
Before a scammer can try and hook you into one of their sorry schemes, they probably have obtained some of your personal data from somewhere. They might have done it by scraping social media profiles or possibly buying stolen personal data on the dark web.
The best way to avoid having your data stolen in a data breach and making you vulnerable to scams is to make sure it’s not stored amongst any data that gets stolen. You can get your data deleted from any company that no longer needs it by using our Rightly Protect service. It’s quick, simple and free and will tell you just who has your data and give you the chance to instruct them to completely erase it, if that’s what you want to do.
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