192.com urges awareness of holiday fraud

  • Action Fraud reports scores of recent incidents of airline ticket fraud  
  • 1 in 3 sun seekers don’t background check travel providers when transacting online  
  • Travel workers highly trusted with bank details

Background checking website 192.com is warning holiday makers to beware fraudsters selling fake holidays.

The warning came as Action Fraud reported 151 frauds involving airline tickets since January 2012. Over a 100 of these occurred from April to June this year. 

The scam involves fraudulent websites claiming to be authorised airline ticket agents promising cheap deals. Fraudsters buy the tickets on behalf of consumers before cancelling them once the airline has issued the tickets.  A fraudster may also purchase a legitimate e-ticket then sell copies of it to multiple buyers, fake an e-mailed ticket, or purchase tickets using a fraudulently acquired credit card.

Holiday fraud also involves selling fictitious vacations, tempting victims with low prices. In reality, the holiday doesn’t exist, or the victim only gets part of what they’ve purchased.

Particularly vulnerable are those seeking online bargains. A Get Safe Online survey found that almost 1 in 3 of web users booking holidays online do not confirm the authenticity of travel providers before handing over payment details.

Fraudsters exploit the trustworthy perception of the travel industry. 192.com polled 1,500 UK residents asking them who they trusted most when making a transaction. Over a third ‘mostly trusted’ a hotel receptionist when taking debit card details over the phone, and 39% trusted a travel agent when making a payment to them.  Car dealers, by contrast, enjoyed the trust of just 11% of the survey, and estate agents by 15%. The 45-54 year olds in the poll were particularly trusting of the travel industry, with over 42% trusting hoteliers and agents.

To avoid holiday fraud, 192.com advises trippers to:

  • Verify the holiday company’s name and business address.
  • Read the business’s company credit report. Company credit reports on 192.com detail county court judgements; legal notices that a company owes money.
  • Research the names of other company directors, and find out if they’re involved in numerous or defunct companies.
  • Discover when the company was set up and check the companies’ filing history. If accounts have been filed late or not all, something might be amiss. Company credit reports will also tell you if a company has changed its name.  If it’s reinvented itself several times ask yourself why.

Action Fraud’s advice for protecting yourself from holiday fraud includes:

  • Notice if the company has recently been set up or has recently changed hands - this could be another sign of fraud – especially if they are also offering unfeasibly low prices.
  • If an advert refers to membership of a trade body or consumer protection scheme such as ABTA, make sure the membership is genuine.
  • Beware of traders who encourage you to pay in cash, by not accepting credit card payments or by charging high credit card fees.

Another popular holiday scam involves advertising for fake hotels or holiday homes on legitimate websites, fake holiday clubs and time shares with hidden costs and fictitious investment returns.  According to Age UK 2011 study - older people were found to be most likely to become victims of holiday club fraud or timeshare investments – 17% of time share scam victims were found to be aged between 70 and 79 years old.

To protect against this, Dominic Blackburn, product director of 192.com says:

“Don’t assume an advert is genuine just because the website is. Research the property or hotel you’re booking - verify that the address exists through web searches and online maps.

“Do the images of the property or hotel match those on the advert? Bing maps on 192.com can give you a bird’s eye view of properties; and use 192.com to see who actually lives there. This can help you decide if the property it’s available for rent.

“Check the individual the selling you the holiday. Is the person who they say they are? Access our 300 million UK edited electoral roll records to match a name with an address.”

To counter accommodation scams, Action Fraud advice includes:

  • Booking directly with an established hotel or through a reputable travel company.
  • Using a travel company who is a member of a trade body such as ABTA, the Travel Association or the Air Travel Organisers Licensing, (ATOL).
  • Establish if you are dealing directly with the property owner or a letting agent.
  • When paying for accommodation never pay by cash or use a Money Transfer Agent

To avoid air ticket fraud people should:

  • Beware of any ticket agent that claims not to accept bank payments or claims problems with card payment functions.
  • Avoid buying e-tickets from classified websites.
  • Use a credit card, which in most cases, provides payment protection.
  • Always check the ticket agent is accredited by regulatory bodies such as the International Air Transport Association IATA. If in doubt, you should contact the airline that should be able to confirm the agent is legitimate.

Anyone who thinks they have fallen victim to fraud should report it to Action Fraud on www.actionfraud.police.uk or call 0300 123 2040.

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