27 April 2016

Four easy steps to avoid common holiday scams

When all the waiting is over and you finally arrive at your dream holiday house, you might hope to find a nice bottle of wine and a beautiful sunset to help you ease into a relaxing stay.

Instead, some poor holidaymakers find that they’ve swapped their savings for a locked-up apartment whose supposed owner won’t answer their calls.

So what steps can you take to stay safe when selecting a holiday?

1. Search before you spend

According to a YouGov poll for ABTA, one in ten consumers (9%) does nothing to research their travel company, so make sure you look before you book!

It might sound obvious, but using the internet to read reviews of a holiday, company or property can give you a good idea as to whether it’s legitimate.

If you’re thinking of booking directly with the owner, be aware that sites that allow owners to advertise their own properties are commonly used to list properties that don’t exist.

If you’re booking through a company, make sure that they’re a member of a recognised trade body such as ABTA. A quick search will help you to find a company that is a member.

2. Vis-à-vis visas

If you’re going on an exciting foreign trip that requires a visa, be aware that visa applications are an emerging target for fraudsters. Be particularly wary if applying for the ESTA visa requirement, says ABTA.

The most common scam here, according to ActionFraud, involves cloned or fraudulent websites. If you are in any doubt that a website is genuine and secure, check with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, embassy or high commission.

3. Take care when you share

Even at booking stage, you should still take a moment to check that you’re entering your details on a secure page. There should be a padlock on the address bar and the address should begin with ‘https’ or ‘shttp’.

Check that the website address that appears at the top of your screen is correct. Fraudsters can clone legitimate websites and the only difference that you may notice is a change to the end of the address, for example ‘.org’ to ‘.co.uk’.

Sites like Airbnb are growing in popularity, but it’s important to be aware of potential scams.

They advise that customers:

  • Do not communicate or arrange payment off the site
  • Report any personal emails that appear to be from Airbnb which ask you to pay or accept payment off-site to safety@airbnb.com
  • Report any PDF or paper invoices that you receive from Airbnb or a host as you should not receive these
  • Avoid or flag messages including the following key words: Western Union, MoneyGram, cashier’s check, money order, Liberty Reserve.

4. Plastic is fantastic

Continually reaching for your credit card isn’t always the best option, particularly if you’re going to struggle to pay it off at the end of the month, but there are times when paying with plastic could offer greater protection.

If you buy certain services or goods with your credit card that turn out to be faulty, not as described – or even non-existent, The Consumer Credit Act 1974 may hold your credit card company equally as responsible as the retailer.

So, for example, if you’re buying a flight worth over £100 direct from an airline, it can be a good idea to use your credit card. This means that, even if the company suspends its operations due to financial difficulties, you should be able to claim back what you have paid.

The only downside is that you may find companies charge you a little more to pay by credit card.

Find out whether one of our credit card options could help you to book your next holiday with confidence.

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