Six criminals within six months have been prevented from “consortia-hopping” thanks to the trade’s first industry-wide fraud intelligence database.

The Fraud Intelligence Network (Fin) is a database of more than 1,000 criminals. After a soft launch in June, it officially launches this week, at the culmination of the Prevention of Fraud in Travel (Profit) cybercrime campaign Secure Our Systems, run in partnership with Travel Weekly.

Fin has created an industry standard for vetting travel agents applying to join an organisation, to ensure fraudsters are unable to trade and switch between consortia.

Profit said Fin could be pivotal in stopping convicted fraudsters, such as Rita Hunter, from continuing to commit crimes. The launch follows the jailing of the former homeworker last month for fraud.

Barry Gooch, Profit chairman, said Fin represented a model all travel membership organisations should adopt, to “retain confidence in the industry”, as well as to drive down the risks and costs of crime.

“A significant issue for the travel industry has been the way criminals have been able to commit fraud as a director of one company that is a member of a consortium, then move to another and commit fraud again because there has been no established, legal method of sharing such information,” he said.

“This new standard guarantees that a minimum level of checks is performed, including the use of intelligence about criminal behaviour.”

The network has identified six agents who applied to join a member’s organisation, having falsely declared they had not committed fraud.

Protected Trust Services,
which has 160 agent and operator members, blocked an applicant last week thanks to a warning from Fin.

Head of communications Jacqui Cleaver said: “We were sent an alert about a person operating under different names and trying to join different groups. He was spending clients’ money [and not fulfilling bookings].

“We do our own extensive checks, but this central point of intelligence acts as extra security.

“We also alert Fin about applicants if we smell a rat. Rita Hunter would not have got away with it had Fin been in place.”

Advantage Travel Partnership operations director Paul Nunn said: “A number of unscrupulous individuals were consortia-hopping. We are committed to preventing independent agents’ image being tarnished.”

Hays Travel Independence Group finance manager Barbara Blackshaw added: “We’ve seen huge growth in the homeworker market and this is where you see the most risk. We are closing the back door.”

At a glance

What is Fin?
The Fraud Intelligence Network is a database of information and a common standard of minimum checks for consortia to use when assessing potential members.

What’s its aim?
To stop fraudsters joining travel agency groups and “consortia-hopping”.

How big is its database?
It has 1,000 criminals that have been active recently, of which six have been stopped from joining member groups since its soft launch in June.

Who are its members?
They include Advantage Travel Partnership, Protected Trust Services, The Travel Network Group, Midcounties Co-op Travel, Abta, Aito, dnata and Hays Travel. Fin is also in talks with airlines and companies in other sectors, such as insurance.