Holiday with your loved ones is a cherished time that is often more luxury than the villa or an apartment you might be staying in. The breakneck tempo of modern living and crazy hours most of us work ensure that every minute spent with our family and friends are priceless and coveted.
That is why, when you finally get to take the people that mean the most to you on holiday, you want to make sure that everything goes without the slightest hitch. Of course, this means taking care of a myriad of little details: ensuring that you have a way to reach your holiday destination, researching activities and local sights and making sure that each member of your family has what they need.
In all this focus on small details it can be easy to overlook the bigger picture: making sure that you don’t become the victim of scheming fraudsters selling you a non-existent holiday deal. Indeed, increasingly so, unaware would-be holidaymakers are being targeted by swindlers more and more, according to a 2014 report by the UK authorities.
The report reveals a staggering number of holiday frauds has been reported in the last year: over 4500 of them.
The majority of them are related to holiday accommodation (30%) where a con man fraudulently advertises a holiday villa or an apartment and the victim arrives to the destination only to see there is nothing there. Other type of frauds involve either fake airline tickets sold, with flights to West Africa in the lead; and package holidays – as if they weren’t bad enough to start with!
But perhaps the most striking finding in the report is that one out of 10 holiday-makers do not make the effort to verify the travel company that they are using – surely a nice little stat for the fraudsters-in-waiting to count on. This 9% does nothing of the following: check if the company is a member of trade association, ask friends and other family members for recommendations, or even perform a good old web search.
It’s still not too late to avoid being one of these unfortunate people, especially if you’re in the middle or planning to start your holiday booking soon. That’s why we prepared a list of things to look out for so you can avoid the terrible realisation that you have been conned.
Do the research
You might have read one or two reviews on Tripadvisor but that is not enough to make sure your travel company isn’t a fraud. You had better do a proper, thorough research via search engines. Don’t forget to use a search string of the “company name + fraud” or similar as you might discover past victims posting details about their experiences.
Another thing that can save your from a scam is just picking up the phone and calling the company in question to ask them a number of questions that will help you ascertain they are legit. Request the company to provide more information about them, background reviews, testimonials..
Pay attention to a slightly different URL address
Sometimes the fraudsters alter the URL address just slightly from co.uk to .org, for example. A small oversight of this can lead to you giving your personal details and even heard earned money to someone who is only looking to make away with it at earliest convenience.
Be wary of private owners’ websites
In principle, you are much more likely to become a victim of a holiday scam if you deal with private owners directly through their websites. Having an agency act as a mediator dramatically lessens the chance of being defrauded as agencies have a number of checks and balances in place to ensure each deal is completely legitimate. Just providing your sensitive personal data such as your email address or credit card number can lead to serious damages for you.
Do not ever pay directly into a company’s bank account. This is because once the direct bank transfer is done, it cannot be traced or refunded. Use a credit card or a debit card at the very least. Most purchases made on a credit card benefit from enhanced purchase protection under the terms of the Consumer Credit Act. In most cases, you can still claim all of your money back from your credit card provider even if you only paid the deposit on the credit card and then paid the balance in cash.
Always ask for a receipt and always double-check each one you get. Do the same with any invoices, reports and terms and conditions as well. You don’t want a hidden small print or an extra zero come back to haunt you later on.
If something sounds too good to be true, it very likely is. Use this to your advantage and don’t be afraid to act on your hunch.
Report the fraud
If you suspect becoming a victim of imminent fraud or you have already been conned, you should contact the authorities and perhaps even take time to warn other web users.