Posted: Mon 15th Apr 2024

Summer scam alert: Lloyds Bank warns of rise in holiday frauds

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales


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With summer fast approaching, Lloyds Bank is warning hopeful holidaymakers they could fall victim to a scam when booking a trip.

These scams have risen 7% over the past year, with people losing £765 on average, with those aged 35 to 44 – often booking trips for their families – making up over a quarter of victims (27%).

Facebook, including Facebook Marketplace, is the main hunting ground for fraudsters, with nearly half of holiday scams starting on the platform (49%), but fraudsters are also using legitimate booking sites to draw victims in.

Ticket to nowhere

Lloyds Bank data shows flight tickets are the most common fake item sold relating to holidays. After the pandemic, there was an increase in the price of flights, which led people to turn to social media and lesser-known websites to look for cheaper deals.

Scammers will create fake ads for cheap flight deals or lure unsuspecting victims by pretending to sell airline tickets they can no longer use themselves.

They will offer a low price and ask for a fee to change the name on the ticket. Once the money has been sent, the scammer will disappear, leaving the victim out of pocket – and without a ticket.

It’s not just those hoping to catch sun abroad falling victim to these scams, as the second most commonly reported holiday scam is the purchase of caravans.

Those hoping to staycation in their own motorhome or static caravan are ensnared by a cheap price, but unfortunately are looking at photos of a vehicle that has been taken from Google images or another advert.

Airbnb scams

While most holiday scams start on Facebook (including Marketplace), they can also happen through more trusted websites such as Airbnb and Booking.com.

Fraudsters sometimes start the scam using the website or app to list fictional rentals with fake photos or photos stolen from other listings.

They may initially take a deposit through the site but will then ask for further payments offline through bank transfer or Paypal. Once they have received as much money as they can, they will disappear.

Fraudsters have also been able to compromise the Booking.com mobile app, using it to successfully message holiday makers, posing as a booked hotel.

While pretending to be the hotel, the scammer will ask for a further payment, to be sent in a different way to the original booking, or for card, bank account or other personal information.

It’s a sophisticated and layered scam, as it appears to be a message from the genuine hotel, sent through the actual Booking.com app.

In many cases, victims don’t realise they’ve been scammed until much later. Booking what they believe to be a legitimate holiday rental, victims arrive with their suitcases, only to find the address their host has given them is fake or the house they think they’ve rented, is actually home to someone else.

Liz Ziegler, Fraud Prevention Director at Lloyds Bank, said: “Most of us spend January and February counting down the days until summer, excited for an eagerly awaited holiday. Fraudsters, on the other hand, don’t need a countdown, as they are always on the lookout for ways to take advantage of those looking for a good deal to get away.

“Whilst legitimate cheap flights and beautiful holiday homes are definitely out there, it’s important people take steps to ensure they are purchasing something that is real. For example, Facebook Marketplace is probably not the best place to find flights for your next holiday. And often, when things seem too good to be true, it’s because they are.

“Always take the time to think about purchases you make online, and when in doubt, always book through a trusted retailer. When it comes to booking stays, always use your card and don’t be fooled by hosts asking you to ignore the websites rules and transfer money directly to them.”
 

Tips to stay safe from holiday scams
  • Purchase tickets and hotel stays from trusted retailers or, even better, direct from the airline or hotel. When booking stays, look for valid reviews on websites such as TripAdvisor. 
  • Always use your debit or credit card. This helps to protect your money should something go wrong.
  • When booking stays through websites such as Airbnb and Booking.com, only pay through their systems. Do not transfer any money directly to the host.
  • If you’re booking a hotel through a third party – like Booking.com – and receive what appears to be a message from the hotel asking for more money, after the original booking has been confirmed, do not pay this without contacting Booking.com or the hotel directly using the contact details on their websites.
  • Be cautious on social media. You don’t know if the user or what they’re selling is genuine and have few ways of checking. If buying a caravan or motorhome, always see the item in person before handing over any form of deposit.
  • Don’t succumb to pressure. If a seller is trying to rush you, or bombarding you with messages, take a step back and question their keenness as this is likely to be pressure selling.
  • Pay attention to warnings. Your bank is likely to provide a warning when you set up a new payee or make an unusual payment. Be sure to follow any advice provided.

 

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