Travel industry to face fraud upsurge as the recession bites

Travel industry to face fraud upsurge as the recession bites

February 2009 is Fraud Awareness Month on Travel WeeklyThe travel industry is likely to see an upsurge in fraud over the next year as the recession bites and businesses become more vulnerable.

Experts have predicted that, as companies and individuals struggle to survive, there will be an increase in all kinds of travel fraud including credit card fraud, identity theft and dubious business deals.

Research revealed this week by accountancy firm KPMG showed the recession is already driving an increasing number of British workers to crime.

UK courts saw fraud cases worth more than £1.1 billion last year - the highest level recorded since 1995 - and KPMG expects that number to increase.

Fraud investigation partner Hitesh Patel said: "These figures are bad enough in themselves, but I fear the trend for the next couple of years will be even worse. Companies need to be rigorous about re-enforcing their anti-fraud measures."

ABTA head of finance Mike Monk said agents should be extra vigilant about wealthy strangers looking to invest in their business or offering to buy them out for an inflated price during the downturn.

"People will take more risks during the recession," he said. "Struggling agency owners will be tempted to take advantage of seemingly attractive business deals. Use your common sense and check with ABTA first."

KPMG's study also found that internal fraud is becoming more prevalent, with employees splashing out on company credit cards, cashing cheques and setting up personal direct debits from business accounts.

Call centres with high staff turnover can be especially vulnerable to this. With more travel companies using call centres as part of their business model, now is the time to start vetting staff (see page 24-25).

"Small travel companies that have expanded into call centres are more vulnerable to this as they are not expecting it," said Monk. "It is so important to vet every employee."

Homepage image: Marja Airio / Rex Features


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