Report: British Citizens Booking Vacations Online Were Defrauded of Millions in 2014
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According to a recent report by the City of London Police National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), fraudster have managed to steal £2.2million ($3.2 million) from British holidaymakers (that’s British parlance for vacationer) in 2014 alone, who were trying to book accommodations online. Though the report is about specifically English tourists, this is a cautionary tale for travelers everywhere.
It was found that the most common types of defrauded booking types were accommodations, airline tickets, sports and religious trips, and timeshares.
The NFIB found that, of the reported crimes, the most common were hacking into accounts on the most popular booking sites, or luring individuals into sites that only seemed to be the legitimate, popular sites, but were actually fake. False accommodation listings would also be posted on Facebook, Gumtree, and Craigslist. The result was a trip, accommodation, flight, or flight thought to be booked and paid for that either simply didn’t exist, or was not booked.
Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Clark, the City of London Police Head of the Economic Crime, said, “The internet has revolutionized the way we look for and book our holidays. The unfortunate reality is that it is also being exploited by fraudsters who use online offers of accommodation and flights that do not exist or promising bookings that are never made to rip off unsuspecting holidaymakers."
The average loss for the defrauded vacationer was found to be £889 ($1,300), but in one case, a fraud related to a timeshare resulted in a £62,000 (almost $91,000) loss.
But there was also the emotional toll of the ordeal. A third of the victims said the fraud impacted their health and financial well-being, and 167 were in such severe crisis that they had to receive medical treatment.
The majority of the defrauded paid by such methods as bank transfer or cash, with no way of getting the money back. Only a small number paid by credit or debit card, where financial compensation can be an option. Mark Tanzer, Association of British Travel Agents Chief Executive, explained: “Holiday fraud is a particularly distressing form of fraud as the loss to the victim is not just financial but it can also have a high emotional impact. Many victims are unable to get away on a long awaited holiday or visit to loved ones and the financial loss is accompanied by a personal loss … We would … encourage anyone who has been the victim of a travel related fraud to report it to Action Fraud so that the police can build up a case, catch the perpetrators and prevent other unsuspecting people from falling victim.” He added.
The report’s top tips for avoiding fraud are as follows:
- Stay safe online: Check the web address is legitimate and has not been altered by slight changes to a domain name – such as going from .co.uk to .org
- Do your research: Don’t just rely on one review - do a thorough online search to check the company’s credentials. If a company is defrauding people there is a good chance that consumers will post details of their experiences, and warnings about the company.
- Look for the logo: Check whether the company is a member of a recognised trade body such as ABTA. You can verify membership of ABTA online, at www.abta.com
- Pay safe: Never pay directly into an owner's bank account. Paying by direct bank transfer is like paying by cash – the money cannot be traced and is not refundable. Where possible, pay by credit card, (or a debit card that offers protection).
- Check paperwork: You should study receipts, invoices and terms and conditions, and be very wary of any companies that don’t provide any at all.
- Use your instincts: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Report it : Victims should contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via www.actionfraud.police.uk (for British citizens only, everyone else, contact your local law enforcement)
More by Michael Isenbek
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