Holidaymakers Warned Over Online Scams
Police have warned holidaymakers to be wary of online booking scams after £7m was stolen by fraudsters last year.
A total of 4,500 cases of booking fraud were reported to police in 2013, with almost a third of cases involving consumers paying for holiday villas and apartments that did not exist.
A report by fraud investigators from The City of London Police said the other most common scams included fake airline tickets and some package holidays to sporting events and religious pilgrimages.
Detective Superintendent Pete O'Doherty said: "The internet has changed the way we look for and book our holidays.
"Unfortunately it is also enabling fraudsters, using online offers of villas, hotels and flights that simply don't exist or promising bookings that are never made, to prey upon those looking for that perfect break."
Laura and Se?Parks told Sky News about their ordeal after they were scammed while trying to book a Valentine's Day break while Se? a soldier, was home on leave from Afghanistan.
Having seen an online advertisement for log cabins near Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands she was duped into paying £400 into the fraudster's bank account - only to find upon arrival that the cabins did not exist.
Se?said that booking service appeared to be legitimate: "The website looked 100%. Everything else, the invoices, they all looked genuine."
Laura added: "He was using a booking company, wasn't he? And I contacted the booking company to ask if they were aware of any of this and they weren't.
"But you have no reason to doubt anything when you have invoices coming through, and you're paying into a bank account."
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, travel industry body the Association of British Travel Agents and the Get Safe Online campaign have urged consumers to be wary and prepared the following advice:
:: Do your research. Do not just rely on one review, do a thorough online search to ensure the company's credentials. If a company is defrauding people there is a good chance consumers will post details of their experiences, and warnings about the company, online.
:: Use your instincts. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
:: Pay safe. Never pay directly into an owner's bank account. Paying by direct bank transfer is like paying by cash and the money cannot be traced and is not refundable. Where possible, pay by credit card or a debit card that offers protection.
ABTA†chief executive Mark Tanzer said: "Fraudsters are conning unsuspecting holidaymakers and travellers out of thousands of pounds each year - leaving them out of pocket or stranded with nowhere to stay through fake websites, false advertising, bogus phone calls and email scams."
Get Safe Online chief executive Tony Neate said it was vital for holidaymakers to do their research before booking.
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