As many as 4,700 unsuspecting holidaymakers and other travellers had £6.7 million stolen by fraudsters last year.
The sale of airline tickets (47%) and accommodation bookings (38%) were the most common types of fraud, a new report reveals today.
The average amount lost per person was more than £1,500 – up by a quarter on the previous year.
Travel fraud also had a major impact on the health or financial well-being of almost half of victims.
The impact was so severe on 575 victims that they had to receive medical treatment or were at risk of bankruptcy.
The level of travel fraud reported to the police jumps in the summer and in December – a clear indication that fraudsters are targeting the peak holiday periods and people travelling to visit friends and family.
They do this because they know demand will be high and availability low, so good value bookings will be harder to find with customers on the lookout for reasonable prices.
Abta, the City of London Police and Get Safe Online are joining forces to again warn consumers about the dangers posed by holiday booking fraud.
The new study, compiled by the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, reveals the scale of reported crime, and exposes common tactics used by fraudsters.
While 4,700 people told Action Fraud that they had been victim of a travel-related fraud in 2017, the three campaign partners believe that the actual figure is much higher, with many victims not realising that they should always report the fraud to the police.
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, more than half (54%) said they had been intending to travel to Africa and 24% to Asia.
This suggests that fraudsters may also be exploiting lack of knowledge of the strict regulations in place for the legitimate UK based travel industry.
Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “Abta sees at first-hand the damage caused by travel fraudsters with the many devastated customers who contact us for advice after they find out their much anticipated holiday or trip to visit loved ones may not actually exist.
“The cost to them is not just financial; this crime causes very real disappointment and emotional distress.
“However this does not need to happen. Check and follow the tips and advice on abta.com and you will not fall victim to these unscrupulous individuals. But if you are unlucky enough to do so, always report it to Action Fraud so that they can put these crooks out of business.”
Head of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, said: “The startling emotional impact of falling victim to holiday fraud is highlighted in the latest figures, as 575 people reported that the harm to them was so severe, they had to receive medical treatment or were at risk of bankruptcy.
“This is why we are raising awareness so that people feel better able to protect themselves from being a victim of fraud.
“We know that fraudsters are increasingly using more sophisticated ways to trick their victims, which is why it is important that you do your research when making travel arrangements.”
Tony Neate, of Get Safe Online, added: “Holidays and trips abroad are one of the biggest purchases we’ll make each year so keep an eye out for tell-tale signs something isn’t quite as it seems.
“It can be quite tempting to get lured in by the offer of a cut price flight or a deal on accommodation when you are caught up in the excitement of booking a holiday.
“Small steps can stop you getting caught out by a holiday scam though such as researching the company you are booking through, especially ones that aren’t mainstream operators.
“Check well known review sites too so you can see what previous customers’ experiences have been and, where possible, pay by credit card to get extra protection in case anything does go wrong.”
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