Agents fear fraudsters are targeting the trade after a raft of bookings and enquiries for high-value, lastminute holidays in recent weeks.

Independent agents, particularly in the northwest of England, have reported suspicious enquiries for flights to Turkey and Dubai and five-star accommodation for five nights with just two or three days’ notice.

One agency, which has been targeted three times, has lost £2,400. Another has lost £2,300 on an identical booking for Jet2.com flights departing from Manchester for a five night all-inclusive stay at the Rixos Premium Belek in Turkey.

In both cases, debit cards passed initial security checks. Agents later discovered false addresses and stolen cards had been used.

One of the agents, who did not want to be named, said: “We don’t need this at a time when bookings are sparse. We’ve lost so much money due to Covid, we can’t afford to lose money through fraud as well.”

Other agents reported similar potentially fraudulent enquiries. Pole Travel in Failsworth took an enquiry for an expensive, last-minute trip to Dubai. Director Jill Waite said: “It was very specific. They wanted business-class flights from Manchester three days later to Dubai for five nights. As soon as we asked them to pay by bank transfer instead of card, they didn’t proceed.

“We immediately rang agents near  us to warn them.”

Upton Travel Worldchoice manager Adrian Cumpstey said he had had four “suspicious” enquiries for Turkey and Dubai over the past month. He added: “The sad thing is, one [fraudulent] booking could be the end for some agents.”

The Travel Network Group recently warned agents of potential scams after one of its agents was targeted. It urged agents to challenge discrepancies, such as CVV security codes, addresses and postcodes on last‑minute bookings.

The warning comes as travel anti-fraud group Profit reported an upswing in fraud cases.

Chairman Barry Gooch said: “During the pandemic, the number of fraud cases of all types being reported to us has seen a significant rise. Because of this, all travel companies should be on their guard and especially so where last-minute bookings are concerned.”