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Holiday fraud doubles as scammers target consumers trying to ‘snap up a deal’

The amount of money lost through holiday fraud has more than doubled in just 12 months, according to the UK’s scams reporting centre.

Action Fraud said victims reported losing a total of £15.3 million in the 2022/23 financial year, compared to £7.4 million in 2021/22.

The increase shows more people are being conned into paying for fake flight and accommodation bookings amid a surge in demand for holidays despite the cost-of-living crisis.

The average loss per victim in the last financial year was £2,372.

Some 44% of all reports were made by people aged in their 20s or 40s.

Action Fraud has launched a national awareness campaign to remind people to think twice before booking a holiday so they “don’t get burnt before they are on the beach”.

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The highest levels of holiday fraud reports happen during the peak summer season.

Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, said: “With summer only just around the corner, we enter a period where fraudsters ramp up efforts to catch out unsuspecting members of the public.

“Scammers prey on people wanting to find a good deal online – whether that’s cheap flights, great hotels close to the beach at discounted rates or package holidays that undercut well-known travel operators and brands.

“People are more than willing to snap up a deal which sometimes comes at a heavy cost.

“When booking a holiday here or abroad, it’s important to do your research before handing over any money and to double check any website.

“To avoid the wave of crime this summer we encourage people to stop, check and research before paying. If it sounds too good to be true, it most definitely is.”

Criminals deploy a variety of tactics to commit holiday fraud.

The most frequent frauds involve cloning websites of comparison companies, holiday providers and airlines, duping victims into believing they are entering payment details on genuine sites.

Passengers at Gatwick
Action Fraud said some victims only find out what has happened when they attempt to check-in for their flight (PA)

Fake confirmation emails are often sent, meaning some victims only realise what has happened when they attempt to check-in for their flight at the airport and are told no booking has been made in their name.

There is also a growing trend of fraudsters using counterfeit Atol numbers on their fake websites to give the impression they are authentic and have passed regulatory checks.

Anna Bowles, head of consumers and enforcement at the Civil Aviation Authority, which runs the Atol financial protection scheme, said: “Before booking any trip abroad, it is always worth doing some homework before you part with any money to make sure you limit your risk of being impacted by fraud.

“Make sure you research the company you’re booking through. Check reviews and ensure that your booking includes all the extras you’re expecting, such as baggage allowance and transfers.

“We also recommend some simple measures to financially protect your well-earned holiday, including using the atol.org website to check your trip is financially protected by Atol, consider paying by credit card and taking out travel insurance as soon as you book.

“This will add extra layers of protection against anything going wrong with your booking.”