Travel Trouble

Tue, 18 Sep, 2018Danielle McCarthy

Don't get caught out: 6 new holiday scams ripping off travellers

Don't get caught out: 6 new holiday scams ripping off travellers

If you’re planning to take a trip across the world soon, then be warned, as there is an influx of new holiday scams affecting tourists as they travel to their dream break.

Holiday-makers have money to spend and relaxation on their minds, which is why they are seen as easy targets for con artists.

UK-based consumer group Which? has listed the six most common frauds travellers need to be aware of, along with tips on how to avoid getting scammed, The Sun reported.

So, if you’re planning a trip abroad, here are the things you need to watch out for:

1. Accommodation booking scams

While the introduction of the internet has been a blessing in terms of ease, it’s also made it easier for scammers to lure you into their traps. With the growth of online holiday bookings, fraudsters often need nothing more than a few fake pictures to lure their victims.

A common scam is one that includes picturesque photographs of holiday rentals that don’t seem to exist, advertised at affordable price points. The deals were often advertised on mainstream websites but asked those who were interested in booking to contact them via email, rather than use the site’s own booking system.

Bookers were then sent a link to a convincing payment page, which suggested the payment hadn’t cleared. They then ask for a bank transfer instead.

How to protect yourself: Do your research. Google the property to see if it shows up on other reputable websites to check its authenticity. You could use Google Maps and Street View to see if the accommodation actually exists. Also, never pay by bank transfer.

2. Dodgy flight deals

Con artists have created fake airline websites that advertise budget deals on long haul flights that leave their victims high and dry.

The UK government’s fraud agency has reported a recent surge of scams targeting those who are travelling to Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

In many instances, tickets were purchased with stolen credit cards and then sold to unsuspecting victims, complete with a reference number.

But tickets were then cancelled after the credit card was reported as stolen, leaving the victims out of pocket and nothing to show for it.

How to protect yourself: Book tickets through trusted agencies.

3. Wi-Fi hacks

It’s become human instinct to try and find Wi-Fi wherever you go, and the same applies when travellers land at airports.

While it’s important to stay connected in order to get in touch with friends and family, there is a risk involved. Fraudsters have set up their own free networks in airports and use them to gain free information about anyone that logs on.

Many passengers have been tricked into entering their credit card details before logging on.

How to protect yourself: Ask airport staff about the real Wi-Fi connection to make sure it’s the real deal and be on the lookout for connections that don’t ask for passwords straight away. Also, if you are asked for confidential information then provide fake details where possible.

4. “Free” holidays

This decade-long scam has been one that con artists have perfected throughout the years. Back in the day, people would be pressured into buying timeshares after accepting a complimentary break.

Now, the con is conducted through scratch cards and other fake competitions.

In one example of the scam, around 500 British travellers in Spain’s Costa del Sol have been scammed of around $27.5 million in the last year alone.

How to protect yourself: Refuse all offers of free holidays because if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is.

5. Document fraud

Over the years, the internet has seen a growth in websites selling fake travel visas and other important documents needed to visit foreign countries.

A few cases were found to not be conducting illegal activity but were responsible for reselling documents at a huge premium compared to official channels.

Some common examples included websites selling the European Health Insurance Card and US visa (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation, or ESTA) documents.

While the sites looked extremely convincing, they had nothing to do with the governments of the countries they claimed to represent.

According to Which?, out of the top 20 search results for “ESTA visa” over half were unofficial.

How to protect yourself: Follow links to official government websites through the Department of Foreign Affairs website.

6. Fake tickets

It’s no secret that music concerts and major sporting events are on top of the list of potential scams, but travellers are now falling victim to fake packages to international events and are only finding out the true worth of their ticket once they arrive in the country.

The FIFA World Cup in Russia was one example where countless websites offered travel packages including tickets when the only tickets that were considered valid and authentic were the ones purchased directly from FIFA themselves.

Scammers love to lure desperate fans with fake tickets, as they know the demand is high and it’s easy to trap people who are willing to go the extra mile for a ticket to their chosen event.

How to protect yourself: Make sure the tickets you are purchasing are from legitimate websites and web pages that start with “https” and have the padlock symbol in the URL bar. And if you’re on the hunt for second-hand tickets, then do a quick check if whether or not resale is allowed, as some tickets are only valid for the original buyer.

“Criminals are finding ever more sophisticated ways to dupe holiday-makers, both in the booking process and when they’re on the holiday itself,” Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said.

“If something seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is. Don’t hand your money over until you can be sure it’s the real deal.”

Do you know of any other travel scams? Let us know in the comments below.

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