ALMOST 6,000 British tourists were victims of booking scams in 2016, a total cost of £7.2 million.
Reported cases jumped by nearly a fifth year on year, from 4,910 to 5,826.
These were the findings released in a report from City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.
According to the report, the most common scams relate to the sale of airline tickets, booking accommodation online as well as timeshare sales.
Victims lost an average of £1,200 each but the financial impact wasn’t the only loss they suffered.
Over a quarter (26 per cent) of those affected said the fraud had also had a significant impact on their health or financial well-being.
About 260 people said they needed medical treatment as a result, or were at risk of bankruptcy, according to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre.
Action Fraud said reports of scams had risen consistently over the past five years.
Scam cases spike in peak periods like summer and December, with the most common age groups targeted between 20-29 and 30-39.
Sports events and religious festivals are a common target for scammers due to the limited supply of tickets resulting in higher prices.
Holidaymakers are being persuaded to part with their cash with fake accommodation websites and adverts, with fraudsters are also hacking into official accounts to target people.
Authorities say they believe criminals are taking advantage of the lack of awareness of the UK’s strict regulations on travel companies.
Fake websites have encouraged tourists to pay via bank transfer or cash, claiming these are the only methods which are protected by their own bogus insurance policies.
But in reality, these methods make it harder for people to get their money back.
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of travel trade organisation Abta, said: ‘Abta is regularly contacted by members of the public who have been caught out by increasingly sophisticated travel-related frauds.’
‘We know at first-hand that the loss and shock of finding that your flight or holiday accommodation has not been booked can be very significant.’
Get Safe Online, Abta and City of London police have launched a campaign to warn travellers about the dangers of holiday booking fraud.
The organisations have provided a checklist to help Britons avoid travel fraud when booking holidays:
Stay safe online: Check the web address is legitimate and has not been altered by slight changes to a domain name – such as going from .co.uk to .org.
Do your research: Don’t just rely on one review – do a thorough online search to check the company’s credentials. If a company is defrauding people there is a good chance that consumers will post details of their experiences, and warnings about the company.
Look for the logo: Check whether the company is a member of a recognised trade body such as ABTA. If you have any doubts, you can verify membership of ABTA online, at www.abta.com.
Pay safe: Never pay directly into a private individual’s bank account. Paying by direct bank transfer is like paying by cash – the money is very difficult to trace and is not refundable. Wherever possible, pay by credit card or a debit card.
Check paperwork: You should study receipts, invoices as well as terms and conditions. Be very wary of any companies that don’t provide any at all. When booking through a Holiday Club or Timeshare, get the contract thoroughly vetted by a solicitor before signing up.
Use your instincts: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Report it: Victims should contact Action Fraud via www.actionfraud.police.uk.
Get free expert advice: For further advice on how to stay safe when booking or researching travel online, go to https://www.getsafeonline.org/shopping-banking/holiday-and-travel-booking.