Travel fraudsters swindled holidaymakers out of £7m last year - and the problem is growing
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Tuesday 04 March 2014
The Internet and travel were made for each other, enabling millions of individuals to access flights, accommodation and holiday packages. But online tricksters are swindling at least £7 million a year from unwary travellers, according to a new report from National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB).
Nearly 5,000 cases of holiday booking fraud were reported in 2013. The single most lucrative fraud is for holiday accommodation. Three out of 10 holiday fraud victims were scammed by fake advertisements of villas and apartments.
Most of these involved properties abroad – but fraudsters are also targeting domestic holidays. A Yorkshire couple who thought they had bought a Loch Ness weekend Valentine's break online were left over £1,000 out of pocket. The “romantic lodge” they had seen advertised on Facebook did not exist. Because they had paid by bank transfer, they were unable to recoup their losses.
Airline ticket scams, where prospective travellers pay for flights that are never booked, accounted for 21 per cent of cases. The travel association, Abta, said that flights to West Africa were a particular target. The era of "paperless tickets" has widened the scope for fraud.
Mark Tanzer, Abta’s Chief Executive, said: “As well as financial loss there is the huge emotional impact of being stranded abroad or unable to afford another holiday. I’d encourage everyone booking travel arrangements to be vigilant and follow our tips to avoid becoming a victim of this type of fraud.”
Abta advises travellers: “Don’t just rely on one review, do a thorough online search to ensure 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, online.”
The association warned that demand from fans seeking trips around key sporting events this summer, including the World Cup, the Ryder Cup and the Common, could lead to a surge in fraud.
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