With so many consumers now using the internet to book their holidays, experts are warning that there’s an increased risk of falling victim to online holiday scams and fake websites.
According to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), the figures have been rising steadily year after year.
As the agency’s chief executive points out, “fraudsters are using increasingly sophisticated methods to target destinations and times of the year when demand is high and availability limited, as they know people will be looking for good deals.”
“As victims often find out just before they travel or even in-resort that they have been defrauded, it can then be difficult and expensive to obtain a legitimate replacement booking.”
But with the scams becoming more sophisticated, how can online shoppers make sure their money is safe?
If you’re thinking of booking your next holiday online, here are some of the most common scams to look out for:
- Realistic looking fake websites
This is one of the most common types of booking scams. Consumers might go online to book flights or accommodation on a professional looking website, only to find that their tickets don’t arrive and that the website was fake.
To protect yourself against this, make sure you check that the web address is legitimate before spending any money. You can do this by checking the domain name to make sure it’s the name of the company itself and that it doesn’t contain any misspellings or additional words.
You can also check that the domain name is https:// rather than http://, and that the page doesn’t have any low-quality pictures or logos, which can be another sign the website is fraudulent.
- Separate payment sites
If you’re booking using an online platform and you’re directed to a separate site, sometimes with the promise of a discount, this should be taken as a red flag that it could be an online scam – especially if the company is asking for payment via bank transfer.
Always be wary of paying for anything by bank transfer. Using a credit card gives you much more protection against fraudulent transactions. And remember, the discount might seem enticing, you need to be careful that the website is legitimate.
- Email, text, and pop-up deals
If you get a deal sent to you by email, text, or on a pop-up advert, even if it seems legitimate, it can be linked to a fake website. Some indicators of this would be low-resolution graphics or logos or asking for a fee upfront.
ABTA says: “We strongly advise people to validate deals, holiday rentals and flights directly via trusted brands’ websites, instead of clicking on links and pop-ups offering bargains. Once they’ve validated its authenticity, all communication and payment should be conducted via that trusted platform to help keep personal and financial information out of hackers’ hands.”
- Fake listings for private accommodation
These are another very common type of online booking scam. It involves professional websites or adverts offering luxury accommodation to rent at a discounted rate. The accommodation itself might not exist, and scammers often ask for a deposit up front.
If you’re renting privately for a holiday, always make sure that you contact the owner of the property or their agent before booking. And always ensure you check the address of the property to make sure it’s real.
Remember, if you suspect a company or website of being fraudulent, you should report it to the relevant authority. And if you’ve already paid out any money, you should report it to your bank or credit card provider.