In Brief

How holidaymakers can avoid the latest villa scams

Barclays finds that 37% of people scammed by bogus holiday firms lose over £1,000

Potential holidaymakers are being advised to keep an eye out for villa scams which have cost tourists thousands of pounds.

A new report from Barclays, which looked at first-hand accounts of scammed customers, found that more than a third (37%) lost between £1,000 and £5,000.

Sky News reports that holiday scams most frequently involve criminals using fake property details to trick travellers into sending them money, or stealing the identifying details of a real rental property and pretending they own it.

Barclays found that of those who had been conned, more than a third (36%) were aged 30 to 44 years old, and 59% were women.

“Trying to escape those January blues may seem like an appealing prospect, but fraudsters are preparing to take advantage of sun seekers at this time of year,” said Ross Martin, head of digital safety at Barclays. “We must all be aware of the risks and make sure we are carrying out proper safety checks to ensure our online security and enjoy a scam-free holiday.”

Another survey of 2,000 people by Barclays that also featured in the report found that 55% of holidaymakers said they would not be put off booking a holiday even if it seemed “too good to be true”.

Furthermore, 14% of those surveyed said they would still book holiday accommodation “despite knowing there was a risk of being scammed”, while 26% would be “prepared to put themselves at risk” to acquire a low price.

Identifying risks in the first place appears to be an issue for many people, with 43% of respondents saying they would not feel at risk if asked to transfer money for a holiday via bank transfer rather than through a secure payment online. And just 45% said they would check their booking is with a member of a consumer protection scheme trade body, such as Atol or Abta.

Mark Tanzer, Abta chief executive, said of the report’s finding: “Abta sees at first-hand the damage caused by travel fraudsters with the many devastated customers who contact us for advice after they find out their much-anticipated holiday or trip to visit loved ones may not actually exist.

“The cost to them is not just financial; this crime causes very real disappointment and emotional distress.”

Barclays offers the following tips to avoid getting scammed while booking a holiday:

  1. Think about whether the offer is too good to be true.
  2. Do an internet search on the location. Yahoo News notes that “if the villa in question appears to be advertised by other companies under another name, this may also be a warning sign”.
  3. Are they asking you to pay by transfer? If so, do not go ahead with the transaction.
  4. Look for companies that have a real location and real phone numbers. Double-check any contact information you are supplied online.
  5. Before you commit to anything, stop and take time to think.

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