While you and your family are gearing up for the year-end holiday season, the criminals too are licking their lips, and getting ready to cheat you out of your hard-earned holiday by any means they can. Consumers are encouraged to be extra vigilant at this time, when the scammers send out an avalanche of fake online adverts, bogus sales calls, e mails and text messages, in an effort to suck you into their criminal schemes, and ruin what is meant to be a happy time of rest and enjoyment.
What is holiday fraud?
Holiday fraud happens when you hand over your money to a travel agent, a website booking, or a booking with an individual, only to discover that your holiday does not exist, and your money has gone. The people carrying out this type of fraud usually ask that you pay for your holiday by bank transfer or cash into an account which is quickly emptied, and is difficult to trace.
You may also be issued with authentic-looking bogus receipts which will be absolutely useless when you try to investigate the payment of your non-existent holiday. There will be no recourse to any type of a refund, and to realize that you have been conned before you even pack for your trip, or even worse, to find out when you arrive at a destination that there has never been a booking, will be devastating.
There are some behavior that will put you at risk like paying for a holiday, travel or accommodation, via direct bank deposit, or a cash deposit. Entering your bank details on a webpage without a padlock icon in the address bar, will also be a huge risk, as will responding to phone calls, e mails or texts, offering holidays for amazingly low prices.
How to help protect yourself.
There are many legitimate travel companies out there that provide excellent service, combined with competitive accommodation and travel costs, who will help to make sure you have the holiday of your dreams.
These tips are to help you avoid the scammers who can turn your dream into a nightmare.
- If you do not know the travel company that you want to book a holiday with, do some research online to ensure that they reputable. You can also check to see if the company is registered with a recognized travel association body.
- Never respond to unsolicited e mails or phone calls making holiday offers.
- Do not click on any links in e mails and texts, or open any attachments in unsolicited correspondence.
- If possible, always pay for holidays with a credit card, and do not give your personal bank details to anyone on the web. Payment with a card at least offers some protection, as it takes time to clear, and if you suspect fraud you may be able to stop the transaction.
- Always be aware that fraudulent adverts and fake websites do exist. It may look fantastic enough for the holiday of a lifetime, but if you have any doubts – just don’t book it!
How to stay safe when booking online.
- The safest way to avoid booking bogus accommodation is to book directly with an established hotel or guest house, or through a reputable well-known travel agent.
- If you use a travel agent ensure that they are members of an official holiday or air travel association body.
- Research the property or hotel you are booking to make sure that the address exists.
- If you are dealing directly with the property owner, get details about the property and the area where it is situated. Even owners can be sneaky, and if you have done research, you should be able to confirm the details that are given to you.
- When paying for accommodation never pay using a money transfer agent like Western Union or MoneyGram. This type of payment is not meant for commercial payment. Use your credit card, as this may help to protect your payment if any fraud is perpetrated.
- If the only payment option is a bank transfer, this could be an indication of a possible scam.
- Check the terms and conditions so you know exactly what you paying for.
- Check the paperwork for accuracy, and don’t deal with a company or person who says that paperwork is not provided.
- Before you travel, always check your booking and travel arrangements. It will be too late if you arrive at the airport and find there are no tickets booked, or get to your destination and find no record of any booking. Fraudsters are able to manufacture genuine-looking airline tickets and copies of accommodation booking receipts that e mailed to you, which will fool even the brightest spark!
Bear in mind that a travel agent, or even an individual owner of a property that you are enquiring about, has no need of your Social Security Number, your date of birth, or your ID number. If you are asked for this information, it is almost certainly a scam, and just another ruse to get details so that your identity can be stolen.
The bottom line.
Experts in the field of identity theft protection are warning consumers about the increase in fraudulent activities with the approach of peak holiday periods. According to the report, people should especially alert to the fake websites, fake online ads, as well as fake airline bookings, which scammers set up, particularly in times of holiday seasons.
It may seem like a lot of effort to check everything thoroughly, but it will be worth it in the long run. There are many families who pay for accommodation only to find out that they have been scammed, and that holiday dreams have been shattered.
What it really means, is that if the family is determined to have a holiday, you will have to find somewhere else to stay, and meet an unbudgeted-for cost.
Unfortunately there are not many families who can afford it – or may be willing to do this!