British holidaymakers have been urged to stay alert online after it was revealed that fraudsters stole £7m from unwitting travelers in 2018.
Over 5000 people reported travel-related scams totaling just over £7m to the UK’s Action Fraud service last year, an increase on the previous 12 months, when 4382 victims reported losing £6.7m.
The average amount lost was £1380 per person, with over half of the reported crimes (53%) related to airline ticketing fraud. The largest single loss was a massive £425,000.
Fraud linked to accommodation rentals came next, accounting for a quarter (25%) of scams reported to Action Fraud. Spain and France are particularly popular for fraudsters, with convincing-looking websites often offering luxury villas for rent without the owner’s consent.
The findings are part of an awareness-raising campaign by travel association ABTA, Action Fraud and the government-backed Get Safe Online, designed to warn holidaymakers about possible scams ahead of the busy summer season.
“The cost to victims is not just financial; this crime causes very real emotional distress. Fraudsters are using increasingly sophisticated methods to target destinations and times of year when demand is high and availability limited, as they know people will be looking for good deals,” explained ABTA CEO Mark Tanzer.
“As victims often find out just before they travel or even in resort that they have been defrauded, it can then be very difficult and expensive to obtain a legitimate replacement booking compounding the financial costs and emotional distress suffered by victims.”
The report also warned of scams targeting pilgrims to religious sites such as the Haj, where average losses totaled £10,000.