Credit-card fraud costs retailers billions of pounds a year and the travel industry is one of the main victims.
In spite of several highly publicised cases, the number of travel agents being caught out by fraudsters making bookings with stolen or false credit cards in on the increase.
ABTA head of financial services Mike Monk said: “There is no question that credit-card fraud is a huge problem and it is getting worse.
“A lot of our members are getting charge backs from credit-card companies for fraudulent bookings because when these are made over the phone (when the card is not presented) it is usually the agent who has to stand the loss.”
Monk said it was not unusual for an agent to have a £5,000 charge back, which could be a disaster for a sole trader.
“They would have to sell £50,000 worth of holidays to cover the loss and that could put them out of business,” he added.
ABTA believes one of the ways to combat fraud is to train frontline staff in how to spot dodgy transactions and how to deal with them when they occur, which is why it has organised a special training session for counter clerks next week.
The session follows its sell-out seminar for more senior staff last year which is being repeated in Scotland in October.
Pamela Baxter, manager of ABTA seminars, said: “It is all very well training owners and managers, but they are not the ones who are taking bookings on a day-to-day basis. It is their counter-staff who are on the frontline, combating fraud every day, and this training session has been designed with them in mind.”
The 2hr session, chaired by Monk with fraud prevention specialist, former CID officer Peter Bignold, will teach counter staff the right and wrong way to accept credit-card bookings in person and over the phone and make them aware of the danger signals to look out for, such as a caller using a mobile phone number or a hotel address.
It will also tell them what help is available if they believe they are dealing with a fraudster, and teach them how to initiate a Code 10 which secretly alerts credit-card companies to the fact they think there is a problem.
“This training session will be a huge reassurance to staff as it is a scary situation when you are handling what you think might be a fraudulent transaction,” said Baxter.
There are 70 places available on a first-come, first-served basis but Baxter said ABTA would organise further training sessions if this is a sell-out.
She said ABTA would also arrange others around the country if there was sufficient demand.
Although ABTA acknowledges that credit-card fraud cannot be completely stamped out, Monk said he was sure training agents to spot potential fraudsters would make a significant difference.
Monk said he was certain that the last seminar held by ABTA for agency managers had helped prevent some people being caught out.
“For two months after that seminar several agents who attended called to say ‘thank God’ they did because it had helped them escape becoming a victim,” he added.
The training session for counter staff, sponsored by Travel Weekly and American Express, takes place at ABTA’s Newman Street headquarters, London, on Tuesday September 14 from 4pm-6pm.
It costs £20 plus VAT for ABTA members and £30 plus VAT for non-members. To book, call Pamela Baxter on 020-7307 1979.
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