Sun, sea and scam? Don’t fall prey to bogus holiday con artists

Planning a holiday is exciting, but it would be heartbreaking to discover that your big break doesn’t really exist and you’ve been the victim of a scam.

It is easy to let the excitement of what looks like a dream holiday at a bargain price cloud your judgment. Photograph: PA
It is easy to let the excitement of what looks like a dream holiday at a bargain price cloud your judgment. Photograph: PA

Would-be holidaymakers and travellers were conned out of £7 million by fraudsters in 2018, according to Action Fraud. The average amount lost was £1,380 per person and 53 per cent of the crimes reported were related to the sale of airline tickets.

As holiday season approaches, Action Fraud has teamed up with Abta to highlight the warning signs of travel-related fraud.

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 to .org.

Do your research

Do a thorough online search to check the company’s credentials. If a company is defrauding people, there is a good chance that consumers will post details of their experiences, and warnings about the company.

Ask yourself if the deal is too good to be true

It’s easy to let the excitement of what looks like a “dream holiday” at a bargain price cloud your judgment. Be wary if you’re contacted out of the blue by a travel agent or firm you’ve never dealt with before, offering a trip away at a very low price.

Fraudsters will often use fake online adverts, bogus sales calls, emails and texts offering cheap deals to tempt you in to booking a holiday with them.

Look for the logo

Check whether the company is a member of a recognised trade body such as Abta. If you have any doubts, you can verify membership of Abta online.

Pay safely

Wherever possible, pay by credit card and be wary about paying directly into someone else’s bank account. If it’s a scam, the fraudster may completely cut off contact after their victim has paid up – and the victim later discovers the holiday they’ve been offered doesn’t exist.

Generally speaking, people paying by credit card have protections under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act if something goes wrong with a purchase. This means that it’s possible to put a claim to the credit card company if you don’t get the goods or service you purchased with your card.

Watch out for holiday club fraud

This may happen when a fraudster contacts you out of the blue, perhaps on the phone or by offering you a scratchcard in the street, and tells you you’ve won a “free” holiday. To claim the “prize”, victims may be asked to watch a presentation, often in a fancy hotel, to lean more about their holiday.

The presentation may be deliberately long and victims may be offered free champagne or other alcohol, before being asked to sign a contract. It later turns out the holiday isn’t free and instead the victim finds out they are expected to pay for flights and other extras. When they try to book holidays, people may also discover that destinations are not guaranteed and may be unavailable when they want to visit them.

For more advice on how to stay safe when booking or researching travel online, visit