Many of us like to jet off somewhere sunny whenever we have the opportunity; unfortunately scammers often target vacationers so they can get people to pay them for their time away. Scammers have been known to target travel booking websites and to charge their victims money for rooms in hotels that do not even exist. With more than 75% of people booking their online in 2016, there is an increasing concern that those wishing to travel will fall victim to a scam.
Booking a holiday online can be very convenient; travel agents are becoming more a thing of the past (or serving a more specialized clientele), and you can book your own travel from the comfort of your home, without pressure from anyone to stay in a particular venue. However, those wishing to make life a little easier for themselves may become victims of holiday scams.
One of the methods scammers often use is to ask people to make a payment for their vacation on another website. This should ring alarm bells, as authentic sites will not direct you elsewhere. Potential victims might be offered a discount if they choose to pay their balance by bank transfer. Again, authentic websites and holiday companies will not offer a reduction in price based on means of payment. You’re likely to be offered some sort of promotional discount, depending on the offers the company has running at the time, but a discount for a specific method of payment should raise red flags. When it comes to paying for your holiday, you should ideally should pay using a credit card, as this method of payment can help to protect the purchase.
Another method used by scammers can often involve pressuring victims to make payments quickly to prevent someone else from getting the booking instead. While some legitimate websites will notify you if there are only a few rooms left, you should not feel under any pressure by the site or by the owner of the room/villa to book. If you do feel under pressure, look elsewhere, no matter how cheap the offer may be.
RKN Global’s founder, Ronald K. Noble, observes that in light of the expenses of taking a vacation, many travelers are looking to save money. This makes travelers such opportune victims for con artists and criminals. Remember as always that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
If you are using a travel agent, one way to protect yourself from falling victim to holiday fraud is to make sure you only book through reputable agents. In the UK, for example, those looking to book a holiday should first make sure the company they’re booking with is a member of the Association of British Travel Agents. Other countries will have their own organizations that can help travelers to book with agencies that have already been deemed trustworthy and reliable.
Another method used by scammers often involves using marketing material copied from elsewhere. Scammers will copy and paste material in an effort to make their website look authentic. If a website’s text looks out of place or contains bad grammar, chances are it is not an authentic website. If you are concerned about the website you’re browsing, simply close the page and look elsewhere.
If you really must book a holiday online, do research and protect yourself. Let’s imagine you’re looking to book a two-week stay in a villa in Spain, and you’ve found one you like. You may be keen to book your holiday, but before you do, why not see if the villa is listed elsewhere? In some cases, the villa may be featured on its own website. If you do come across the villa/hotel/campsite elsewhere, look for the owners’ contact details. Try to get in touch with the owners via telephone or email, and ask if they know their property/site is listed on the first website. If they are unaware of the website in question, do not book your holiday through that site; instead book directly with the owners (using a credit or debit card to make the payment), or through an established, reputable website.