What is it?
From fake caravan or motorhome listings to “too good to be true” offers for holidays, villa rentals and holiday lets, criminals use a variety of methods to trick us into handing over our money and information. Having been duped by criminals some victims may not even realise they have fallen for fraud until they arrive at their holiday destination.
HOW TO SPOT HOLIDAY FRAUD:
- You’re offered a heavily discounted or considerably cheaper holiday deal. The offer sounds too good to be true.
- You are asked to pay by bank transfer and not the secure payment options recommended by reputable retailers.
- The website or company that you’re purchasing from was only launched days/weeks ago and they are not ABTA members or ATOL holders.
- You can find little information up-front about the company you are booking through and the terms and conditions of your purchase are not clear in advance.
Caravans and mobile homes purchase scams
The last thing you want before embarking on a staycation is to find out that the caravan or motorhome that you think you’ve purchased doesn’t exist.
Criminals advertise fake listings for on auction sites and social media, using attractive prices to tempt people into believing they’re getting a good deal, when in reality they simply don’t exist or don’t arrive once paid for. Payments are usually requested via bank transfer as opposed to using the recommended secure payment method.
Criminals also ask people to pay using fake invoices to trick them into thinking that all is as it should be. Subsequently, the criminal fails to send an invoice and the buyer is contacted by someone pretending to be a representative from a payment service provider and receives a reference and bank account number for payment to be made into. Ultimately, the buyer doesn’t receive their goods as payment has been made into an account controlled by a criminal so customers should be on the lookout for these scams when looking to purchase caravans and mobile homes.
Holiday cancellation refund scams
Having your flights or holidays cancelled by flight operators and travel companies can be stressful, even more so when you’re seeking a refund. Criminals use these opportunities to defraud people in a number of ways, including via phishing emails, ‘spoofed’ calls or social media posts or ads.
Criminals send out phishing emails advising people how to claim refunds with links leading to fake websites that are used to steal personal and financial information or to infect your device with malware. These emails may appear to be from airlines, banks, travel providers or other trusted organisations using official branding to convince you they’re genuine.
Criminals call you pretending to be representatives/ ’refund agents’ from impacted organisations or from your bank claiming they can help you get an immediate refund if you provide them with your bank details. You may be asked to pay an upfront fee as payment for handling refund claims. Once your bank details have been shared with the criminal you fail to receive your refund and they have access to your money.
Criminals can create fake social media accounts imitating that of real organisations, often claiming to be able to assist with refunds/claims. The links contained in the posts ultimately divert you to fake websites that require your personal and financial information in order to proceed. However, once your details are entered you fail to receive any help and could subsequently become a victim of a scam.
Holiday booking scams
Whether you’re booking that dream holiday or just a short break, make sure you do lots of research into your accommodation, flights or the package that you’re hoping to book to ensure it’s genuine. Criminals often set up fake websites offering ‘cheap travel deals’ which are used to obtain your money and information. Websites may look like that of genuine organisations but subtle changes in the URL can indicate that they are fraudulent. You may also be directed away from secure payment channels to ‘avoid missing a booking’ to pay via bank transfer or through fake payment pages. The tickets advertised may be fake or not exist.
You may also receive phishing emails advertising “too good to be true” offers or prices for package holidays or flights. When the link contained is clicked, you’re directed to a fake website designed to obtain your personal and financial information.
Always use a strong password for your emails that’s different to any of your other log ins. Criminals can hack your emails and subsequently gain access to holiday information.
Flights and packages
If you’re booking a package holiday through a company, you can check if they’re an ABTA member by looking for the logo on their website. Furthermore, you should go to the ABTA website and verify their membership. If the package also includes flights, you can go to the ATOL or Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website to check if you are protected, and if that company is an ATOL holder.
Criminals can expertly design websites that seem professional and convincing, using images of luxury villas and apartments that don’t exist to convince you they’re trusted and genuine. These are offered for rent, often at discounted prices and require a deposit to be made which is never returned.
Make sure you do your own research before booking. You can check the company’s office website by searching for them on a trusted search engine such as Google. You can also read feedback from sources you trust, such as consumer websites.
Criminals make offers of free holidays to entice people to sign up to their timeshare scams. With this scam criminals encourage you to attend seminars where you are pressured into committing to a timeshare scheme or holiday club and asked to sign a contract. The criminals offer too-good-to-be-true prices and perks before pilling on the pressure to make you sign. Later they charge extortionate fees and the schemes are difficult to get out of.
Before you go overseas
- Make sure your card company has your up-to-date contact details, including a mobile number. If your card company detects unusual spending patterns on your card they may try to contact you to check that the transactions are genuine – they could block your card from being used until they can get in touch with you.
- Ensure you have your card company’s 24-hour telephone number with you, in case you need to contact them because of any difficulties.
- Ensure you can trust a vendor or website before disclosing your card details. Take Five before you buy. If you’re using a retailer for the first time, always take time to research them before you give them any of your details. Be prepared to ask questions before buying. Check that the locked padlock or unbroken key symbol is showing in your browser and that the website that you are visiting has ‘https’ at the beginning.
- Only take cards that you intend to use; leave others in a secure place at home.
- Make sure you have your card company’s 24-hour contact telephone number. The number will be on the back of your card, your card statement or on their website.
- Make sure your card company has up-to-date contact details for you, including a mobile number.
- If your cards are registered with a card protection agency, ensure you have their contact number and your policy number with you.
When you are overseas
- Don’t let your card out of your sight, especially when making purchases in restaurants and bars.
- Don’t give your PIN to anyone – even if they claim to be from the police or your card company.
- Shield your PIN with your free hand when typing it into a keypad in a shop or at a cash machine.
- Be as careful as you are at home when using your card and cash.
- Look after your belongings at all times – especially your passports, wallet, purse, visas, bank account details, tickets and hotel booking information.
When you get back
- Check your card statements carefully for unfamiliar transactions. If there are any, report them to your card company as soon as possible.
- Be aware of other people around you when withdrawing cash. If anyone close to the cash machine is behaving suspiciously or makes you feel uncomfortable, always look for another machine. Report any security concerns that you have to the police and bank concerned.
- Check your bank account balance as regularly as possible to make sure that you are aware of any funds that have been withdrawn from your account without your authorisation