The number of holidaymakers that were ripped off last year by booking scams saw an increase of 19%, new figures show.
The UK’s national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre Action Fraud saw 5,826 cases reported during 2016, up almost a fifth on the previous year.
The most common scams related to airline tickets, online accommodation bookings and the perineal timeshare sales.
A total of £7.2m was lost to these scams last year at an average of £1,200 per victim.
More than a quarter of the victims said that that the scams had a significant impact on not only their financial well-being but also their mental and physical health. A further 259 were left needing medical treatment or at risk of bankruptcy.
A new campaign has launched backed by the City of London Police, Abta and the fraud prevention group Get Safe Online to highlight the dangers posed by holiday bookings and timeshare purchases.
Tony Neate, of Get Safe Online, said holidays are often a “big-ticket item” and present “the perfect opportunity for cyber criminals to swindle unsuspecting victims out of their hard-earned money”.
He went on to stress that you should always do as much research as you can about the organisation you are looking to book with before making a purchase.
“By booking in haste, you could not only risk losing a huge amount of money, but also disappoint family and friends when it comes to that long-awaited escape.”
Sporting events such as the UEFA Champions League Final and religious trips such as the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages are a popular target for these scam artists due to the limited availability of tickets and subsequent higher prices.
Timeshare Scams and Timeshare Release Claims
The unregulated timeshare industry that saw its boom in the 1980’s and 1990’s is still claiming its fair share of victims.
Many customers were promised exotic holidays at affordable costs with an “investment for the future” angle taken in the often oversubscribed timeshare presentations. It was during these presentation that high-pressure sales tactics forced people into quick and uninformed decisions.
These tactics have left many people owning timeshares which they can no longer afford due to the ever increasing maintenance fees. However, after a Supreme Court ruling in 2015, timeshares that were mis-sold to customers could be eligible to a full refund or cancellation.
This has allowed customers to bring claims against timeshare resorts such as Club La Costa. In a groundbreaking ruling against the resort a customer was refunded the full purchase price of his timeshare along with a proportion of the maintenance fees. The contract was also cancelled as he was granted a timeshare release.
Action Fraud says reports of travellers being swindled have consistently risen over the past five years.
Mike Tanzer, Abta chief executive, said: “Abta is regularly contacted by members of the public who have been caught out by increasingly sophisticated travel-related frauds.
“Follow the tips we have put together in partnership with Get Safe Online and the City of London Police to avoid falling victim yourself and ensure that your hard-earned money goes towards your holiday and not lining the pockets of a fraudster.”