People booking holidays are being warned to watch out for scammers, amid concerns that cost-of-living pressures may push them towards taking more risks with their cash.
Holiday fraudsters can lure people into paying by bank transfer using fake but convincing holiday adverts as well as via bogus websites and phone calls.
Rising living costs generally may make people more vulnerable to scams as they search for less expensive deals.
Holiday bookings website Airbnb and online safety experts Get Safe Online are urging people to be vigilant.
Tony Neate, CEO at Get Safe Online, said: “As the cost of living rises, we want to help protect everyone’s hard-earned cash and urge people to stay alert when it comes to booking a holiday.
“Trust your instincts and remember: if a deal looks too good to be true, then it probably is.”
A quarter (25%) of people said they will not be able to afford a holiday if they cannot get a good deal, rising to 30% of 18 to 34-year-olds, according to a survey of 2,000 people across the UK carried out by Opinium in December.
One in six (16%) people said they would be willing to book impulsively as soon as they were offered a price, if it would mean potentially paying less.
A similar proportion (15%) of people would risk paying directly via bank transfer if they thought it would save them money.
One in 10 (10%) would purchase a holiday through a provider they were unfamiliar with, if it meant paying less.
Amanda Cupples, general manager for the UK and Northern Europe at Airbnb, said: “This year, many of us may be eager to save some pennies when booking a holiday, making it an ideal time for scammers to take advantage of those looking to find a good deal.”
Here are some tips from Get Safe Online when booking a holiday :
1. Never click on links that you are not expecting. Remember that bogus links may take you to a fake website designed to imitate companies you are familiar with.
2. Be wary of unusually cheap deals or high deposits. If a deal or offer seems too good to be true, it could be a scammer and it is best to end all communication immediately.
3. Paying by credit card can give you added protections if something goes wrong. Under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, someone may be able to raise a claim with the credit provider if the trader lets them down.
People may also want to check whether the company involved is a member of trade association Abta (Association of British Travel Agents).
Holidaymakers booking flights may want to check coverage under the Atol (Air Travel Organisers Licence) financial protection scheme.
Michael Budge, head of Atol at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said: “Even with the sharp rise in the cost of living, there is a real appetite to travel overseas this year. Deals can seem attractive, but before booking, we urge everyone to do some research to stay travel-savvy and minimise the risk of being scammed.
“Consumers tell us that they think it is important their holiday is protected by Atol and we want people to have peace of mind knowing they will not be left out of pocket if the worse were to happen between booking and travelling.
“Always check it is financially protected by Atol, watch out for hidden extras such as baggage fees and seat assignments, consider paying by credit card if you can and take out travel insurance when you book as these are all top tips for anyone looking to book a holiday.”
Airbnb also recommends that when using its website, people should check out reviews from other guests and remain on its platform to book, pay and communicate.
If someone believes they have been scammed they should tell their bank and the police.