£64k lost in online holiday scams

Cyber Security - Has It Clicked?

1 Apr 2016

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More than £64,000 was lost by would-be holiday makers from the Humberside force area last year, who were conned out of their hard-earned cash by online criminals.

And this is not a problem unique to this area, with UK travellers losing a total of £11.5 million in 2015, according to a report by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.

The report revealed that 4,910 cases of holiday fraud were reported to Action Fraud.

In the previous year, the reported loss to travel fraud was £2.2 million – however, it is believed much of the increase is due to such crime previously going unreported.

Today the force and its partner Get Safe Online have teamed up with ABTA to highlight the issue in the hope of preventing others falling for similar scams.

 

Common scams

The most common type of fraud nationally relates to the sale of airline tickets, though there has been a large increase in the number of owner accounts on popular accommodation websites being hacked.

A Hull woman fell foul of one such scam, paying out £1,200 to book a Croatian apartment with a person she believed to be the owner.

However, it emerged the owner’s account had been hacked and she had instead been dealing with an online criminal.

In another case, a Hessle man lost £1,500 believing he had booked his flight and hotel through an online travel agent, only to find neither had been secured.

But some offenders operate far closer to home.

One woman lost £100 she had paid to secure the use of a caravan at a site in Hull for a short break, only to find the woman she had been dealing with had no connection to the site and no booking had been made.

Another lost £200 after taking to social media to seek a caravan available for hire and striking a deal direct with the owner.

On the day the holiday was due to start, she found the offender did not own a caravan.

 

Protect yourself

Detective Inspector Rich Osgerby from the force cyber crime unit said: “For many of us, the first thing we do when booking a holiday is turn to the internet.

“However, it’s vitally important that no matter how good the deal may seem or how quick you believe you need to be to snap it up, that you take the time to make sure all is as it should be.

“We would advise that you follow a number of basic checks, which can help minimise the risk of becoming a victim of fraud.

“These include researching the company you are looking to book through and ensuring it’s a member of a recognised trade body.”

Other tips include:

  • Stay safe online:  Check the web address is legitimate and has not been altered by slight changes to a domain name – such as going from .co.uk to .org
  • Do your research: Don’t just rely on one review - do a thorough online search to check the company’s credentials. If a company is defrauding people there is a good chance that consumers will post details of their experiences, and warnings about the company.
  • Look for the logo: Check whether the company is a member of a recognised trade body such as ABTA. If you have any doubts, you can verify membership of ABTA online, at www.abta.com.
  • Pay safe: Never pay directly into an owner's bank account. Paying by direct bank transfer is like paying by cash – the money is very difficult to trace and is not refundable. Wherever possible, pay by credit card (or a debit card that offers protection).
  • Check paperwork: You should study receipts, invoices and terms and conditions, and be very wary of any companies that don’t provide any at all. When booking through a Holiday Club or Timeshare, get the contract thoroughly vetted by a solicitor before signing up.
  • Use your instincts: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

 

Cost is more than financial

Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive, added: “Every year ABTA is contacted by members of the public who have been victims of travel related fraud.

“The costs to these people are not just financial. They also have to deal with the severe disappointment of holidays or trips to visit loved ones being cancelled at short notice.

“Fraudsters are always on the lookout for new opportunities, making full use of the internet with clever and unscrupulous scams. ABTA would strongly urge the public to follow the booking advice which we have created in partnership with Get Safe Online to stop these crooks in their tracks.”

Tony Neate, CEO, of Get Safe Online also had advice for those looking to book their holiday online.

He said: “Holidays can be the best time of the year, when you can really get away from it all with families, friends or even just by yourself.

“That makes it even more devastating when you find out that the flights and hotels you booked online were in fact a scam, turning your dream get away into more of a nightmare.

“There are things you can do to protect yourself when looking to book online. Be your own detective and make sure you do your research.

“Also, whenever you go to enter your bank details online make sure there’s a padlock symbol in the browser window, or the webpage address starts with https:// – that means the webpage you’re using is secure.”

 

Report it

If you believe you have been targeted, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or report it online.

For more information on keeping yourself safe when booking online, visit Get Safe Online or http://abta.com/fraudABTA

For more online safety advice, visit Humberside Police Cyber Security: Has It Clicked?