ABC Lawyers have seen there has been a 25% increase in travel fraud this year alone with even more convincing and sophisticated scams which are conning consumers out of their hard-earned savings.
The average loss is £1,500 – totalling a whopping £6.7m. Such scams range from fake accommodation to bogus flights. Web pages can be made to look like the real deal these days using sophisticated techniques. When one scam stops working, these charlatans will simply move on to the next.
Holiday Accommodation Fraud
Fake accommodation is a big earner for fraudsters who use flamboyant pictures of beautiful villas and apartments at reduced prices to lure in their victims, encouraging them to get in touch via email rather than through an official booking website. The scammers will then send a link to a convincing payment page which looks like a true website, where consumers are encouraged to transfer money. The main scam is to pretend that the credit card didn’t go through, and then they pounce and ask for a bank transfer instead.
Timeshare scams have been around since the 1980s. Thousands upon thousands of people have been pressured into purchasing timeshares after accepting a ‘free holiday’.
To this day, they are still using the same gimmick; however, it’s evolved. Street touts offer victims the infamous ‘scratch cards’. All the cards are ‘winners’, leading everyone who scratches them to believe they have just won a free holiday.
Timeshares are not illegal and most of those who own them continue to enjoy their timeshare holidays year after year. However, there are also consumers who end up paying high maintenance fees every month for a property they cannot use. One of the latest scams involves companies calling consumers requesting upfront fees with the promise of freeing them of their unused timeshare.
Timeshare owners, mostly British, from the Costa del Sol, fell for this scam to the tune of £15m.
If you already own a timeshare, beware of companies that promise they can sell it for you but require upfront fees. Contacting ABC Lawyers today could help point you in the right direction.
Fraudulent Airline Tickets
There has been a recent wave of scams with fake or unconfirmed airline tickets, mostly targeting holidaymakers heading to Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
Fraudsters undercut the normal market price of these flights, offering them on very convincing phoney websites. It has been known that in some cases, they purchase genuine flights with stolen credit cards. As soon as the card is reported stolen, the flight is cancelled by the airline. However, the thieves still have the reference number, which they then try to sell on.
If you’re booking through an agent, make sure it’s an ABTA member. ABTA agents have to sign up to a code of conduct. ABTA provides cover in the event of financial failure.
Should the agent also sell other holiday elements such as accommodation, then you should also check that it has an ATOL licence.
Excursion/attraction tickets and passes
Counterfeit tickets at this summer’s World Cup were reportedly sold for as much as £10,000. Only tickets bought directly from FIFA were valid.
Such fraudsters also sell fake tickets to sold-out music shows, where fans are willing to pay over the odds. Fraudsters tend to exploit situations where prices are high and availability is low, to convince fans to throw caution to the wind.
Only ever buy from legitimate sites and accredited sellers. All official websites will have the padlock symbol in the corner by the URL and start with ‘https’ (meaning that your details – including payment information – are secure).
Bear in mind that resellers are legally required to tell you the original face value of the ticket and where you’ll be sitting, so ensure that resale is allowed before buying second-hand.
This has become extremely popular in airports. Fraudsters are able to gain access to personal information from anyone who joins the network. Antivirus software company, Avast performed an experiment to see how easy such a scam was to enact. They set up a bogus airport network called ‘AENA free wi-fi’ at Barcelona airport, to find that users happily signed up, despite the fact that the network was not run by AENA.
Avast said it could see the identity and browsing history of 60% of people who logged on. By convincing holidaymakers to provide credit card details, scammers could steal more than just browsing habits. If the connection gets you straight online, without asking for a password, treat it as suspicious and disconnect straight away. Always give false details if you are asked for any personal information.
Never use public Wi-fi to log on to anything that could reveal sensitive personal information.
False Documentation Fraud
Beware of fraudulent websites selling fake travel visas and other government documents.
Such websites are cynically charging for services that are available free of charge. The European Health Insurance Card and US visa-waiver document are amongst the most popular.
Never pay for an EHIC, you can obtain these for free from the NHS and only purchase the ESTA visa for a fee of 14 dollars (at the time of publishing) direct from the US government.
As we’ve seen, timeshare fraud is one problem, but there are many other kinds of holiday fraud going on, of which you need to be aware. Unfortunately, there are many underhand characters out there trying to find opportunities to make a quick buck. Remember these tips to stay safe online when booking a holiday and related activities, and don’t forget: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
See our recent blog post regarding timeshare scams.