Published on: 18 December 2023

What are holiday booking scams?

This is where a scammer uses fake social media listings and fake travel websites to steal your money.

Scammers advertise flights, villa rentals, holiday lets, caravan or motorhome listings, and other travel accommodation that don’t exist. They advertise cheap travel deals and offers at too good to be true prices.

When you’ve been tempted and tricked into parting with your money, you discover these holidays aren't real.

This is not an uncommon issue. Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime, has reported that more than £15m was lost to holiday booking scams between April 2022 and April 2023 . This is a 41% increase on the same period between 2021 and 2022. And the summer months are when the most scams are reported (source: Action Fraud report (opens in a new window)).

We want to help you fight back.

How do travel scammers steal your money?

The scammers use lots of methods to get your money. Anyone can be caught out by these tricks.

You may be offered or sent an invoice that looks legitimate. There may be a company logo and other signs that it’s all above board. These invoices give you account details and ask you to pay through a bank transfer, not a secure online payment.

They may call you and pretend to be a company representative, someone who will walk you through the payment. Again, it will sound like you’re sending money to an upstanding company. But you’ll actually be moving it to a criminal’s bank account.

Scammers also make spoof websites. They copy real companies like AirBnB or Expedia and make subtle changes to the URL.

How to book your next holiday safely

  • Only use secure payment methods.
    If you’re asked to make a bank transfer outside a website, this is likely to be a scam. Always use a secure card payment. If possible, use a credit card when making purchases that cost over £100 and up to £30,000 (even if you only pay part of it on your credit card). You’ll be protected under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.

  • Beware of really cheap holiday offers.
    Don't be lured in by prices that are significantly lower than elsewhere.

  • Research thoroughly before buying your holiday.
    Search for reviews of the website or person online using websites like Trustpilot (opens in a new window). Some other quick checks are that the website begins with ‘https’ and that there’s a padlock in the website address bar. If you’re given an address for the holiday let, check it exists using Google Maps.

  • Try to book direct with established hotels or ABTA- or ATOL-protected companies.
    If you book through a travel agent or broker, make sure they’re ABTA or ATOL protected. This is a clear sign they’re legitimate. If you book independently, check if you’re dealing with the property owner, a letting agent or the local tourist information desk. This will be useful if anything goes wrong with your booking.

  • Look into what checks have been made on the accommodation.
    When booking accommodation through a travel agent, ask what checks they make on the landlord and the accommodation.

  • Pay attention to the terms and conditions
    Ensure you read through all the small print before making any bookings to confirm exactly what you’re being sold. Double-check both your travel and accommodation information, particularly if there is a long gap between making the booking and arrival.

  • Take extra care with timeshare schemes
    As well as paying close attention to the terms and conditions, you may also want to consult a solicitor before buying. And remember to never feel rushed into anything.

  • Don’t forget about our Scam Checker Service
    If you’re ever unsure about a payment you’re making from your Nationwide current account, you can talk to us first. Call us, or visit us in branch, and we’ll tell you if we think it’s a scam or not. This is our Scam Checker Service. Some payments are excluded.

Victim Support

Our partnership with this independent charity supports customers who’ve been a victim of fraud or a scam. They offer a tailored service to meet your individual needs. It’s free, non-judgemental and confidential. And they will help you for as long as you need.

The Nationwide Fraud team will refer you for further support if you need it.

Stop. Challenge. Protect

We're proud to be supporting the industry fraud awareness campaign Take Five, which encourages you to perfect the art of saying NO to criminals by taking five minutes to Stop, Challenge, Protect.

Criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police so it can be difficult to spot scam texts, emails and phone calls. However, there are things we can all do to protect ourselves.

Always remember to challenge if someone contacts you asking for your personal or financial information – be direct and say NO. Saying NO can feel uncomfortable but it’s OK to reject, refuse or ignore requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.

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