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ABTA reveals thousands of UK holidaymakers hit by fraud

Fraudsters stole over £7 million from unsuspecting UK holidaymakers and other travellers in 2018, a new report has revealed.

ABTA, Action Fraud and Get Safe Online are joining forces to warn the public about the dangers posed by holiday booking fraud and give advice on how to spot and avoid travel-related fraud.

The report compiled by Action Fraud and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau details the most commonly targeted areas of travel and the methods used by unscrupulous criminals to defraud the travelling public.

Over 5,000 people reported to Action Fraud that they had lost a total of just over £7 million to holiday and travel related fraud, an increase on last year, when 4,382 victims reported losing £6.7 million.

The average amount lost was £1,380 per person but, as in previous years, in addition to the financial cost, victims have also reported the significant emotional impact caused by this crime.

The three campaign partners also believe that the actual total figures relating to travel fraud may be even higher, with many victims feeling too embarrassed to report.

Over half, 53 per cent, of the crimes reported were related to the sale of airline tickets.

These reports were made consistently throughout the year, however the largest individual loss, of over £425,000, was made in August 2018.

The next most common fraud, at 25 per cent, is related to the sale of accommodation, with a peak in reported losses in October.

This indicates that many victims report their loss after the end of the summer holidays the busiest time of the year for travel and a popular target for fraudsters.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA chief executive, said: “ABTA sees at first-hand the damage caused by travel fraudsters after customers find out their much-anticipated holiday or trip to visit family and friends does not actually exist.

“This is why ABTA, Action Fraud and Get Safe Online work together to make people aware of the steps they can take to avoid falling foul of a holiday scam.”

Types of Fraud

In 2018 over 5,000 cases of holiday and travel booking fraud were reported to Action Fraud.

The most common types of fraud related to:

  • Airline tickets: As well as flights relating to holidays, fraudsters particularly target the visiting friends and family market with flights to Africa and the Indian subcontinent dominating the list of affected destinations. The campaign partners believe that fraudsters may be exploiting lack of knowledge of the strict UK regulations in place governing the sale of airline tickets.
  • Accommodation Fraud: Fraudsters are using increasingly sophisticated methods, with very professional and convincing websites offering upmarket villas for rent. Although some of these villas are fictitious many actually exist, but are being offered by fraudsters without the legitimate owner’s knowledge. Spain and France are the two destinations most commonly targeted.
  • Religious trips: Haj trips are particularly attractive to fraudsters as the amounts of money involved are substantial with the average loss totalling almost £10,000 per reported case.

In response to the issue, ABTA has unveiled a series of guidelines to following to avoid becoming a victim of fraud.

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