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Watch For Scams Newsletter. Common Holiday Scams
October 29, 2023
Common Holiday Scams
Watch For Scams is dedicated to helping you avoid becoming a victim of fraud.
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Common Holiday ScamsIt has never been easier to book a holiday – nor to be scammed out of one. And it’s getting worse: travel scam cases are rising by 41 per cent year on year, with ploys affecting everything from hotel bookings to package holidays, airport parking and flights.
These are the most common scams to look for, and how best to protect your money – and holiday.
The non-existent holiday scam
Scammers may tout flights, hotels or entire trips over email or social media, often quoting low prices to lure you in. Do your research before handing over money, and double-check any website. Search for reviews of the company or agent online, and check whether it’s a member of an Association of Travel Agents or a holder of an Air Travel Operators’ Licence – and verifying its claims on the relevant bodies’ websites, as some fraudsters use fake numbers. Requests for wire payments or bank transfers should also ring alarm bells so you should pay by credit card.
The bogus booking verification
If you have reserved several hotels through companies like Booking.com for an upcoming trip, and then get an email from one of them via the website’s messaging system saying you need to verify your card details via a link to secure the booking, treat it as a red flag. Sometimes they say your reservation will be cancelled altogether unless you transfer the full amount then and there. Again its a red flag.
The fake holiday competition
You’re scrolling on social media or checking your emails, and you see a competition to win a holiday – why not enter it? While you’re savvy enough to never hand over cash for a fake “prize”, what’s the harm of filling in a form to win a break? Fake competitions encourage recipients to click on a link and provide their personal details in order to participate, [meaning that] the criminals now have all the information they need to abuse those details, commit fraud or sell onto organised crime gangs via the dark web. Always do your research before entering a competition. Check for clues such as spelling mistakes, pixelated images and links that do not match the brand.
The airport parking sting
Airport parking is littered with scams, the most common of which is offering a meet-and-greet service without owning a secure car park – so cars are left somewhere risky, such as a field or public street. The car could also be driven for hundreds of miles, racking up fines or tickets, or be returned damaged. In the worst case, the car simply vanishes overseas. Much newer is the fake QR code scam, in which rogue operators print their own QR codes, and stick them over a car park’s real payment codes to divert customers to a bogus website. Fake meet-and-greets don’t have their own car park, nor can they collect cars from the official car parks or drop-off areas – so they’ll ask to meet you somewhere unofficial. Rogue operators also don’t usually have contact details beyond a mobile phone.
The convincing ‘clone’ website
You click on an online advert for a holiday package, or a particularly juicy special offer – and the website you land on seems legitimate. But cloned sites are among the most common online scams. At a quick glance it appears you are on a trusted site, whereas in reality the URL has been changed. Here, victims assume they are on the genuine site and willingly hand over money at a great cost. Fake confirmation emails or booking references are sent, so some people only realize they have fallen victim to fraud when they are at the airport to check in – to be told that their booking does not exist.
The phoney holiday property
You’ve found a holiday rental for a decent price, with good images – but is it too good to be true? It remains highly profitable for fraudsters to list properties they don’t own, take a booking and disappear with the money. Avoid any listing that features the host’s phone number or contact details, and if they ask for your details – rather than messaging via the booking website or app – consider it suspicious. Be extremely cautious of wire payments or bank transfers: keep it to a credit card, and only via the company’s official system. Try a reverse image search of the pictures, and if they exist elsewhere on the same website, a scam is afoot. Look at the address using Google Street View. Does it match? If one vendor’s profile has multiple property listings, that can also be a red flag – as can bargain prices, and listings without any reviews.
If you believe you have been a victim of this type of scam you should promptly report it to the IC3's website at www.IC3.gov. The IC3's complaint database links complaints together to refer them to the appropriate law enforcement agency for case consideration.
Remember - always watch for scams!
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