How to stay (financially) safe in the sun

If you’re heading overseas make sure you come back relaxed not broke. Here’s how

If the latest holiday stats are anything to go by, we Britons are ardent lovers of the new, the unexplored (at least by us) and the temptingly foreign.

Regardless of the potential fallout over a particular brand of political upheaval we’re frankly getting a bit tired of mentioning, 60 per cent of us are likely to desert these shores for far off climes this summer.

Tour operators such as Tui have said their bookings for summer 2019 remain broadly in line with last year, so we can expect a similar number of British people to jet off again.

But, while we all love the relaxation of a holiday, for some unlucky people, booking their break becomes a traumatic encounter with a fraudster.

Data compiled by Action Fraud reveals that scammers stole more than £7m from unsuspecting holidaymakers and other travellers in 2018.

More than 5,000 people reported that they had lost an average of £1,380 each to criminals, but the true number and total loss could be far higher as fraud remains a consistently underreported crime.

Head of Action Fraud Pauline Smith said: “There is a startling emotional impact of falling victim to holiday fraud bringing the feeling of embarrassment and disappointment to those we love, so we want to ensure that people feel better able to protect themselves.

“We know that fraudsters are increasingly using more sophisticated ways to trick their victims, which is why it is important that you do your research when making travel arrangements.”

There are always risks when booking a break abroad but by being aware of them it’s possible to avoid them and ensure a smooth sojourn in the sun.

Here are some of the dangers – and how to avoid them.

Fraud

With such large amounts being lost to fraudsters, and the emotional punch that kind of crime can carry, it’s vital to be aware of how criminals operate.

Aeroplane ticket fraud and accommodation fraud were two of the key ways that people were scammed out of their money, with increasingly sophisticated and convincing tricks and websites being deployed against holiday bookers.

Get Safe Online, Action Fraud and Abta urged people to check the web addresses of any sites they book through to be sure it is the genuine address and not a scam site with a similar but slightly different URL.

The organisations also recommended checking multiple reviews of the websites they are using so they can be sure they are seeing some genuine reviews. After all, if others have experienced fraud then they may have shared their stories and negative feedback.

It’s also a good idea to check a company belongs to a trade body, such as Abta, to be confident the provider is reputable.

Having all this in mind may seem like a pain when your mind is on seaside towns and five-star hotels, but it’s better than losing thousands of pounds to crooks.

Booking with a credit card also provides some additional protections under the Consumer Credit Act. If you use your credit card to buy something, including a holiday, and it costs over £100 but under £30,000 then the card provider is jointly liable with the seller, providing extra protection.

Illness

You can protect against fraud and you can use reviews to ensure you book a good hotel, but you can never guarantee that you won’t fall ill or have an accident while travelling.

Despite that, almost 10 million British people took the risk of travelling without insurance last year, with two out of five people either failing to take out a policy or invalidating theirs by taking part in activities that weren’t covered.

Many people believed it was unnecessary since they had Ehic cards and were travelling within Europe, meaning they would gain access to state medical care if they fell ill.

However, that doesn’t provide any protection for non-medical emergencies and also will not cover the cost of repatriation to the UK, which can be extremely expensive if an air ambulance or special arrangements are needed.

Of course, another risk is travelling without valid insurance, perhaps because you haven’t read the small print or because you haven’t informed the insurer of a pre-existing medical condition.

Crime

Holidays are about relaxing but knowing how to stay safe makes it less likely you’ll experience an upsetting and disrupting crime.

Never carry large amounts of cash, it’s better to take what you need each day and lock the remainder away in a hotel safe. If you use a travel credit card or prepaid card then that can be even safer.

Find out what the specific risks are for the area you are travelling to so that you know if there’s a danger from unlicensed taxis, for example, or from corrupt officials who may issue “on the spot” fines.

It’s also sensible to avoid drinking to excess, especially if you are outside of a hotel complex and so more vulnerable to criminals.

Value

This article may seem to be full of doom and gloom but the chances are that nothing bad will happen on your break, especially if you take precautions with insurance and personal safety.

Probably one of the biggest risks is that you might end up overpaying for your holiday but that is easily avoided if you know how.

When booking flights or packages, delete your browser history before you buy. Some websites recognise when you have returned and are more likely to make a purchase so they increase the price.

Look carefully into how you will spend money abroad. While the charges for using some debit or credit cards can be steep, some are designed for overseas travel and have lower fees for withdrawing cash or spending money abroad.

If you’re using a card to pay, you may be offered the chance to pay in the local currency or in pounds. It’s almost always best to pay in the local currency as this can help you avoid local foreign exchange fees that can be steep.

Also, exchange any currency before you reach the airport. The rates for swapping cash just before you fly can be extremely high because they know you don’t have any other options.

Finally, package holidays sold in the European Economic Area by Abta members are protected financially in the event of a company failure.

This means that if a travel company goes out of business, holidaymakers can continue their trip or get their money back.

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