In 2014 an estimated £2.2 million was stolen from unsuspecting holidaymakers and other travellers in scams led by fraudsters. The impact of such scams are not just financial loss, the report by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) reveals victims also experienced substantial impact to their health and financial well-being. As the peak holiday season approaches knowing the common types of holiday scams and money tricks before you go could save you from being fleeced and turning your dream holiday into a nightmare.
Steer clear of car hire scams
Whilst abroad you’ll typically experience extra fees and charges when hiring a car. Ensure you check the fuel policy before you hire. Go for a ‘pick up full, return full’ policy that will save you the potentially inflated cost and admin fees that may come with paying upfront for the full tank. Got a satnav at home? The extra item in your luggage is better than forking out £100 for the satnav add-on. Plus most satnavs work in Europe as well as the UK, or try downloading the free Navmii app on your phone. Just watch out for data charges.
You’ve had a great day exploring the foreign lands in your hire car but after you’ve returned the car you’re hit with a massive bill for damages that were already there. Before taking the car away, take pictures and note down any pre-existing bumps and scratches on the contract to avoid being liable. Do the same when you return the car.
Given an unexpected upgrade? Find out if there are extra costs and if they don’t have the car you ordered ask for the upgrade for free or a smaller car and a refund for the difference.
Dodgy health and travel insurance
For our health and the safety and protection of our belongings we are prepared to pay whatever it may cost but be wary when buying your insurance prior to jetting off. Con artists are keen to take advantage of your planned precautions and may try to sell you phony travel or health insurance policy which would leave you unprotected and out of money. However sniffing out an insurance scam can be difficult so to ensure your policy is legitimate shop around and review your options, review the policy and claims process carefully before you buy and make sure you’re buying from a licensed agent. Look at for ABTA accreditation on the site.
We all like to feel that we are getting a good bargain, so it’s not surprising that in our hunt for the best foreign exchange rates we can often be left vulnerable to currency scams. Some companies may claim they charge 0% commission but don’t be fooled, look closer and you may notice a ridiculous admin fee in the disclaimer. Or when less money arrives than you’d exchanged you may be told it was the bank that charged the fee. Another trick many sites may use is using an interbank currency converter. This is supposed to tell you the rate you will get if you exchange with them however the fine print reveals it is just an ‘indicative’ rate. As with many types of frauds the trick is to stay vigilant, in this case when buying currency or handling money.
Visas are required for entry to many countries around the world at a fee and are usually available online. Fraudsters are increasingly targeting visa applicants, primarily those applying for the ESTA for America, by using cloned or fraudulent websites that mislead customers into thinking they are official government sites. This is the most common type of visa booking fraud and the visas they claim to provide are fake. To avoid becoming a victim of such scams remember to always check the credibility and origin of the site, check the website address is correct. If you are unsure contact the embassy or high commission to confirm. If you’ve applied for the visa lottery (Diversity Immigrant Visa Program) then be aware that winners will never be contacted via the internet nor will they be asked to send money by mail or money transfer services. The same goes for UK passport applications. Apply or renew your passport through the government site: www.gov.uk/apply-renew-passport.
ABTA, the UK regulatory body for travel agents and operators has teamed with City of London Police and Get Safe Online to provide tips on keeping safe against crooks when planning your holiday.
- Do your research: Don’t just rely on one review – do a thorough online search to ensure the company is credible. If they’re suspect, other people may well have posted their experiences warning people off.
- Look for the logo: Check whether the company is a member of a trade body such as ABTA. Members will be legitimate companies, operating to a strict code of conduct. Verify membership of the trade association online, you can do that through our Find a Member section.
- Stay safe online: Check the web address is legitimate and has not been altered by slight changes to a domain name – such as going from co.uk to org. This problem is particularly common when booking accommodation only.
- Pay safe: It is best to pay on credit card so that your purchase is protected. You should never pay directly into an owner’s bank account; paying by direct bank transfer is like paying by cash and very difficult to get back.
- Check the paperwork: All reputable companies have terms and conditions so beware of companies that don’t.
- Use your instincts: If something sounds too good to be true – it probably is. If something doesn’t feel right then question it.