Last year fraudsters stole £1.5 million from holidaymakers and so caused a great deal of misery, which in some cases may have been avoided. The most common fraud, which made up for 45% of cases reported, were websites selling fake plane tickets which customers paid for but which they never received. Accommodation, luggage and visa applications were also targeted as fraudsters conned holiday makers out of their cash. The research from the City of London's National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) also found that men were more likely to be victims of holiday fraud than women.
One in three people who reported cases of holiday fraud were scammed when trying to make accommodation bookings. These typically happen when a customer booked a hotel or villa: when they arrived they found the accommodation did not exist. The two key areas for this kind of fraud were Spain and England (London being the main source). The rise of self-catering accommodation where owners liaise direct with the traveller, has been blamed for the rise in this type of fraud too since there is no 'middle-man' to act as another check. If you are booking direct accommodation carry out as much sleuthing as you can first to verify how real the destination is!
Holiday makers booking package deals are also at high risk from fraudsters who see them as easy targets. This often happens when someone books a package deal with includes an event, such as a Grand Prix, because tickets may be hard to get hold of and expensive. With all packages like this people are more likely to be conned because they are so keen to get their hands on the tickets and therefore fail to check thoroughly the efficacy of the offering.
Buying visas is another area where tourists can get conned. Fraudsters have used the visa system to steal money and private information by setting up copycat websites, especially for the ESTA visa for the US. Always make sure you are on an official website – enter the address in your web browser and do not just do a Goggle search and click on sites listed.
It seems that men are more at risk of holiday fraud than women, and those aged 30-49 are more likely to be caught out. The main reason people become victim to fraud is that they do not carry out the proper research before booking a trip. One in ten travellers do not research the travel company they are booking with, and a quarter are willing to pay out £200 or more for a deposit to secure a booking – without knowing exactly who they are giving their money to, and for what!
How to protect yourself from holiday fraud
The first thing you need to do is make sure you research the companies you are booking with. This will give you an idea as to whether they actually exist and how reputable they are before you actually take your holiday. Google the company and verify their address and telephone number and see if there are any comments and endorsements about them from satisfied customers. TripAdvisor is a good site to check as it is written by travellers, so if something is dodgy you may find someone has written about it! Take a look at www.tripadvisor.co.uk for more information.
If you have a bad experience, maybe a hotel which you've paid for but that doesn't exist, then make sure you report it as you could save others from experiencing the same problems. ActionFraud is a good site to use so that other travellers are aware and the company concerned can be investigated (www.actionfraud.police.uk) or 0300 123 2050.
When booking a package holiday make sure the company you have chosen is a member of a trade association such as ABTA or the Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (Atol). If it is, you will be fully protected should anything go wrong with any part of the package. This will be either through a refund or a holiday representative organising alternative flights and/or accommodation for you.
If you book your holiday independently you have less protection than when booking a package. However, if you have the right travel insurance in place you should be covered if something goes awry with any part of the trip. Always check the small print before you buy a policy to make sure you are in fact covered for all that you need (and never consider withholding any medical conditions from the insurance company as this could invalidate your policy). Keep a record of anything you purchase or need to pay out for, such as a night's stay in a hotel so that you can submit evidence when making a claim.
Take professional advice before you go on holiday. If you use a professional insurance broker such as Westhill Insurance Services, you will get honest and sensible advice on the type of insurance you need for your particular holiday. As an independent company, we will shop around to make sure you have the best deal to match your budget so there is no need to worry that you can't afford insurance. Indeed you can – and you must, because if you do get into problems you will find that not having insurance can prove very, very expensive indeed.
Pay on a credit card
We are not advocating getting yourself into debt here, but if you buy something on a credit card over the value of £100 it can afford you a little more protection. This is because under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, the retailer and the credit card provider are jointly liable to cover the cash if something goes wrong.
This also counts towards partial payments if, for example, you paid £50 in cash and £50 on your credit card. Before you make any payments, make certain the site you use on line is secure. It should have a small padlock in the address bar and the address needs to begin with 'shttp' or 'https'.
As we all look forward to a break from work and the day to day routines, it is worth spending a little time double checking that the companies you book with are trustworthy – and indeed, exist! Also, invest some time in making sure you have the right insurance for your holiday so you can enjoy yourself free of worry – and don't forget to make sure you have the necessary visas, currency and any vaccinations which may be required. A little time spent planning before you leave can make all the difference as to how enjoyable your break proves. Once done, it is time to break out the sun tan lotion and enjoy your well-deserved holiday!
Contact Westhill Insurance Services, today.