How scammers are duping travellers with ads for non-existent holidays and exploiting Passport Office delays by offering bogus fast-track renewals – here’s how to spot bogus deals
- The CTSI said scammers were using sophisticated methods to dupe travellers
- These included ‘fabricated’ social media ads and ‘too good to be true’ prices
- The CTSI said it had seen texts and emails offering speedy passport renewals
- READ MORE: Fifteen signs you’re a true Brit flying off on holiday revealed
Holidaymakers have been warned to look out for fraudsters advertising bogus travel deals and exploiting passport delays.
The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) warned that scammers were using increasingly sophisticated and convincing methods to dupe potential travellers into paying for non-existent holidays and services.
These included ‘entirely fabricated’ social media ads featuring attractive pictures of holiday cottages and hotels accompanied by ‘too good to be true’ prices.
By the time holidaymakers realised that the pictures and prices were fake, scammers had taken their money and disappeared, the CTSI warned.
In many cases, scammers told their victims to pay by cash, via bank transfer or through services such as Western Union, which were difficult to trace and non-refundable.
Holidaymakers have been warned to look out for fraudsters advertising bogus travel deals and exploiting passport delays
THE TELL-TALE SIGNS OF A SCAM
Alarm bells should ring if you can’t copy and paste the text in an advert in order to cross-reference it.
Other signs include a company only listing one mobile number as a contact, a lack of social media activity, not having an office that has a physical location that you can check on Google Streetview and showing almost constant availability for rentals.
Being asked for a passport number during the booking process is also a sign you’re about to be scammed.
This isn’t normal procedure, according to Abta.
But one of the surest signs is that the site refuses to take payment from a credit card and instead demands a bank transfer.
To be clear, there are legitimate sites that use bank transfers, but if that’s the only method of payment it’s accepting, alarm bells should ring.
Often victims did not realise they had been scammed until they arrived at the airport to find their flight reservation did not exist, or at a hotel to discover there was no record of their booking.
Scammers were also taking advantage of disruption caused by industrial action by UK Passport Office workers by offering bogus ‘fast-track’ services.
The CTSI said it had seen a number of texts and emails offering speedy passport renewals, warning that victims could lose personal data to fraudsters as well as money.
CTSI lead officer Katherine Hart said: ‘Lots of people are preparing to go away at the moment and, unfortunately, there are a lot of adverts on social media advertising cottages and hotels at home and abroad with incredible pictures and fantastic prices.
‘These bogus adverts are designed to steal our money, leaving us disappointed and without a holiday.
‘As with any purchase, do your research, only shop with reputable companies, and make sure you are 100 per cent sure who you are dealing with and what you are getting before you part with any money.’
CTSI chief executive John Herriman added: ‘As always, scammers are quick to leap on any opportunity to take advantage of uncertainty and upheaval.
‘The exploitation of delays brought about by Passport Office strikes are just the latest example of scammers preying on people’s vulnerability.
‘People work hard and save all year round for their holidays – scammers know this, but they don’t care. We can all fight back, though, by being alert, by following a few simple guidelines, and spreading the word about the harm these scams can cause.’
The Chartered Trading Standards Institute warned that scammers were using increasingly sophisticated methods to dupe potential travellers into paying for non-existent holidays and services. Scammers were also taking advantage of disruption caused by industrial action by UK Passport Office workers by offering bogus ‘fast-track’ services
The CTSI urges consumers to check the URL and security of any website used to book a holiday, always look at independent reviews other than those on the website itself, contact the owners of the holiday cottage before making a booking and pay using a protected method such as a credit card, debit card or PayPal’s buyer protection service.
Jake Moore, Global Cyber Security Advisor at ESET, said: ‘Once again, fraudsters have very quickly taken advantage of a situation which will ultimately see a number of victims fall for scams. When people are desperate for fast-tracking passport services, scammers will inevitably abuse this demand and create authentic-looking emails, texts and even phone calls to catch people out. It is therefore advised to only ever stick to the genuine government website and steer clear of adverts or websites that appear high up in search engines offering impressive and “too good to be true” services. Preying on this vulnerability can be a quick win with cybercriminals but it is imperative that people always remain cautious.’
HOW DO I MAKE SURE I’M NOT SCAMMED?
A spokesperson at MoneySuperMarket said: ‘If a [holiday] operator insists you pay by bank transfer rather than a credit card, that should set off alarm bells. A trader or merchant has to be approved by card providers before it can accept plastic card payments, so if it aggressively refuses to take plastic, you might want to question why. Is it actually a legitimate business?
‘If you pay by credit card, you have the protection of Section 75 of the 1974 Consumer Credit Act. This means that, if your bill is between £100 and £30,000, you can claim against the card provider if you are ripped off.’
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