Holiday Scams - Don't get taken for a ride

15 September 2021

3 min read

Getting away for a well-earned break is always something to look forward to. But if you spot an amazingly cheap travel deal that’s too good to be true, more often than not, it probably is. Offering exceptionally low prices for amazing holidays is a common tactic that fraudsters use to lure you into their scams. To help you avoid being taken for a ride, we’ve provided some hints and tips in this article on the kinds of things to think about and why it’s important to look beyond that eye catching price.

As more of us book our holidays online, criminals are setting up fake websites offering attractive travel deals which they use to steal your money and information. These websites may look almost identical to those of genuine, well known travel operators and are designed to trick users into parting with their money and personal details by promoting tempting offers.

One way to quickly spot a fake site is to check the website’s address (URL) for subtle changes to the company name. For example, a fraudster could set up a website at ‘www.A1rbnb.com’ to imitate the popular holiday rentals site, Airbnb. Alternatively, you may have received a promotional email with details of great value package holidays or flights. Always check the sender’s details before you click on any links within an email. If you don’t recognise the email address it’s come from, STOP. It could be a phishing email, designed to take you onto one of those fake websites, putting your money and your personal information at risk. Other scams to look out for are listings on auction sites or social media platforms for caravans and holiday homes that don’t even exist.

Another common tactic used by holiday scammers is to create a sense of urgency to direct you away from secure payment channels. They’ll tell you that you need to book now to avoid missing out on a deal, asking for immediate payment via bank transfer or directing you away from a genuine booking site onto a fake payment page. You should always pay using the retailer’s recommended secure payment method. Look out for a small padlock symbol at the start of the website address as this confirms the site is secure.

Sadly, many holiday scam victims don’t realise they’ve been scammed until it’s too late. Use the checklists below to help you stay safe when searching for holidays online.

How to spot a potential holiday scam

  • The deal looks too good to be true, flight prices are largely set by airlines – with travel agents having some leeway – so, charging significantly less than the going rate is often a sign that there may be a criminal behind the offer
  • If you’re looking to book on an official site, such as Airbnb the scammer will often ask you to pay outside of the official website, possibly to pay via bank transfer
  • If buying a holiday home, the seller may have limited pictures or is unable to take new pictures upon request
  • The retailer / seller may be pushing you into making a purchase.

Remember these key tips:

  • Always pay on the official website
  • Do your own research and check online reviews, do not believe the reviews on the website as these can be easily faked
  • Never click a link in a suspicious email, social media message or text
  • Only ever pay over the phone if you have called the official number yourself
  • Fraudsters will often place an image of trusted brands or logos on their site in order to convince you its genuine, such as the ATOL logo. Continue to do your own research into the firm.

Find out more about common fraud threats and how to avoid them.

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