Five ways to check if your bargain holiday could be a scam

Prospective holidaymakers hit by increasing living costs will no doubt be on the hunt for a bargain this year.

But as people look to make use of the easing of travel restrictions, they are being warned that criminals are ready to pounce with a variety of sophisticated scams.

In the past, travel booking surges have led to an uptick in holiday-related scams – whether this is through bogus emails and calls, social media posts or fake adverts. So be aware and remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, says: “With the easing of many COVID travel restrictions, many of us are looking to snap up a bargain for a well-deserved break. But it’s important not to let that dream holiday turn into a nightmare by staying safe from scams.

She continues: “Always beware of deals that look too good to be true. Criminals will try to entice you with bargain basement travel offers that link to fake booking websites designed to steal your personal information or money. Do your research before making any purchases by reading reviews of the site or person you’re purchasing from, and use the secure payment options recommended by reputable online travel providers.”

Read: Common travel scams to avoid

Here are five ways to avoid a holiday scam.

1. If it’s at a rock bottom price, ask yourself why
Criminals often set up fake websites offering “cheap travel deals” – used to obtain your money and information.

You may also be directed away from secure payment channels to “avoid missing a booking” and asked to pay via bank transfer or through fake payment pages. The tickets advertised may be fake or not exist.

Family looking at a computer
Check the reviews before booking. (Alamy/PA)

2. What do the reviews say?
Do your research before making any purchases, by reading reviews of the site or person you’re purchasing from. Before booking accommodation, ask what checks the agent makes on both the landlord and advertised property. Verify the address exists through web searches and online maps.

3. Is the company a member of a reputable trade body?
Where possible, book directly with an established hotel, or through a reputable travel company or agent who is a member of a trade body such as ATAS. Travel agencies that bear the ATAS symbol have met strict criteria in order to become nationally accredited. Their accreditation means they are the best in the industry; credible, well trained and a professional business.

Read: Common travel scam still taking Aussie tourists to the cleaners

They are required to conduct business in compliance with Australian Consumer Law and in accordance with ATAS Charter and Code of Conduct.

If you decide to book independently, establish if you’re dealing with the property owner or a letting agent, or book via the local tourist information desk.

If the company you are booking with is based within Australia, check Scam Watch for reports from other customers that the offer is a scam.

4. Have you checked the small print?
Make sure you read the terms and conditions before making any bookings to confirm exactly what you’re being sold. Double-check both your travel and accommodation information, particularly if there is a long gap between making the booking and arrival.

Be wary of any unsolicited offers received in the mail or via the phone. Verify the company website and check for other customer reviews. Don’t feel pressured to purchase straight away, ask for the offer to be emailed to you and take your time to research if it’s a legitimate offer.

5. If you’re offered a cancellation refund, check it’s real
Having your flights or holidays cancelled by flight operators and travel companies can be stressful – even more so when you’re seeking a refund. Criminals might use these opportunities to defraud people in a number of ways, including via phishing emails, ‘spoofed’ calls or social media posts or ads.

Read: Consumers denied holiday refunds while companies hold fees

In general, you should always stop and think carefully before parting with money or information; reject, refuse or ignore anything that might be fake, and contact your bank immediately – as well as Scam Watch – if you think you’ve been scammed.

– With PA

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Written by Vicky Shaw

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