How to avoid online scams when booking a holiday?

An increasing number of people leave booking holidays until the last minute in order to get better deals on flights and accommodation.  When dealing with reputable agencies and companies this can be a great plan but it’s vital not to be tempted by taking a risk and open yourself up to fraud by trying to save some money.  Here are some of the most common online holiday frauds.

Bypassing holiday rental website fees

You’ve found a great holiday rental on a website like Owners Direct or Holiday Lettings and you’re in touch with the owner, when they offer you a £50 discount if you book with them direct – that way they don’t have to pay the website fees.  Great deal?

Unfortunately scamsters are using these sites to post listings that aren’t real and then make people an offer they can’t refuse – save money for no extra work.  To do this you’ll need to make a faster payment, where it is much harder to claim money back if there is a fraud and you may not find out it’s a fraud in time to try and raise a claim and the money is gone.

Always use the holiday rental site, where you can pay by credit or debit card.  When you do use the website, check out the listing thoroughly:

  • How long has it been on the site? The longer the better.
  • How many reviews are there and over what period?
  • Is there a landline and/or address on there as contact details?
  • Give the owner a call instead of just emailing, ask them questions about the area and check their answers, like local shops, good restaurants in the area etc.

If you’re ever in doubt, or someone thing seems too good to be true, walk away.

Buying travel or accommodation on Facebook

So many scammers take advantage of the friendly nature of Facebook to try scams.  “Cheap flights to Portugal – we can no longer make it due to illness so get a last minute bargain.”  “Last minute cancellation at our caravan in Devon, 50% off a week’s break.”

Guess what, they want payment upfront by faster payment before they send the tickets or before you get to the caravan.  Unless you know this person and trust them implicitly don’t risk your money in this way.

Travel website cloning fraud

A reputable travel company’s website is copied to look identical but when it comes to payments, they ask for a bank transfer.  The differences are so subtle it’s easy to get taken in, but always check the web address at the top is the web address listed on Google or on companies house, look out for typos and overly cheap deals and never pay by bank transfer.  A reputable company will usually offer credit card or debit card payment options.

If you think you have been a victim of holiday fraud, contact your bank or money issuer as well as Action Fraud.  Never be embarrassed into silence; fraudsters stole £6.7 million from almost 5,000 unsuspecting holidaymakers and travellers in 2017.  The only way to stop them is to report them.