Travel fraud is costing UK holidaymakers millions of pounds per year - and also having a severe effect on their health or financial wellbeing.
The report by Action Fraud - the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime - found that on average the amount lost per person was over £1,500, an increase of 25 per cent year on year.
However, this form of fraud has other severe effects with almost half (2,245) of victims saying that it also had a significant impact on their health or financial wellbeing.
Most worryingly of all, 575 people said the impact on them was so severe that they had to receive medical treatment or were at risk of bankruptcy.
The most common types of fraud relate to the sale of airline tickets (47 per cent) and accommodation booking (38 per cent).
4,700 people told Action Fraud that they had been the victim of a travel related fraud in 2017, but the actual figure is likely to be much higher, with many victims not realising that they should always report the fraud to Action Fraud.
In common with previous years, the numbers of people reporting travel fraud jumps in the summer and in December - a clear indication that fraudsters are targeting the peak holiday periods when demand will be high and availability low.
The visiting friends and family market is particularly attractive to fraudsters offering fake flight tickets and package arrangements. Fraudsters may also be targeting individuals travelling home to visit family in time for public or religious holidays. Where destinations were reported by victims, 54 per cent said they had been intending to travel to Africa and 24 per cent to Asia.
In 2017, the most common types of holiday booking fraud reported to Action Fraud related to:
Holiday accommodation – fraudsters are making full use of the internet to con holidaymakers by setting up fake websites, hacking into legitimate accounts and posting fake adverts on websites and social media.Airline tickets – where a person believes they are booking a flight and receives a fake ticket or pays for a ticket that never turns up. In 2017, flights to Africa and the Indian sub-continent were particularly targeted.Sports and religious trips – a popular target for fraud due to limited availability of tickets and consequently higher prices.Caravanning – Action Fraud reported a number of people reporting being the victim of fraud relating to mobile home holidays.
Top tips to avoid becoming a victim of travel fraud:
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 .orgDo 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: Wherever possible, pay by credit card and be wary about paying directly into a private individual’s bank account.Check documentation: You should study 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.Trust your instincts: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.Report it: Victims should contact Action Fraud.Get free expert advice: For further advice on how to stay safe when booking or researching travel online, visit Get Safe Online.