UK holidaymakers lost £7m to travel fraudsters in 2018

By Lucia Binding, news reporter

Five thousand UK holidaymakers were left out of pocket by more than GBP7m in travel-related scams last year, a new report suggests. The victims lost an average of GBP1,380 each after purchasing counterfeit airline tickets, accommodation or organised tours, according to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA). More than half (53%) of the crimes were related to the sale of airline tickets, with scammers particularly targeting those visiting family and friends in Africa and the Indian subcontinent.

One in four cases involve accommodation, such as payments to stay in upmarket villas which are either fictitious or being offered without the owner's knowledge. ABTA's chief executive Mark Tanzer said: "ABTA sees at first hand the damage caused by travel fraudsters after customers find out their much anticipated holiday or trip to visit family and friends does not actually exist.

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Image: More than half of the crimes related to the sale of airline tickets

"The cost to victims is not just financial. This crime causes very real emotional distress."

He added that fraudsters are using "increasingly sophisticated methods to target destinations" and at times of year when demand is high and availability is limited, when people are mostly likely to be looking for deals.

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The total amount of money stolen last year represents an increase from GBP6.7m in 2017, the fraud reporting centre Action Fraud said. Spain and France are among the destinations most commonly affected by travel-related fraud. "There is a startling emotional impact of falling victim to holiday fraud bringing the feeling of embarrassment and disappointment to those we love, so we want to ensure that people feel better able to protect themselves," said Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud.

"We know that fraudsters are increasingly using more sophisticated ways to trick their victims, which is why it is important that you do your research when making travel arrangements." When purchasing airline tickets, ABTA advises holidaymakers to look for whether the agent is an International Air Transport Association (IATA) licence holder. If so, they are required to issue tickets immediately on full payment, so customers should insist on being emailed straight after paying.

Holidaymakers should also check that web addresses are legitimate, do their own research to ensure the company is credible and never pay directly into a private individual's account.

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