Top tips to stay safe from holiday scams

As travel restrictions begin to ease across the UK, many Brits will be feeling more confident about booking a holiday for the next few months and jetting off for some socially distanced sunbathing. For those with children, the school holidays will bring an opportunity for a much-needed break from the strains of home-schooling.

However, this period of greater uncertainty is motivating scammers who are exploiting the situation and defrauding more people out of their savings. In March alone, Action Fraud reported a 400% increase in fraud cases. Holiday season brings a fresh opportunity for scammers to trick people who are turning to online platforms looking for a good deal. Tom Squire, Commercial Director at Shieldpay shares his top tips on the tricks people can look out for when booking a holiday:

Stick to websites and sellers you trust

Deals and discounts can always be tempting but it’s best to stick to websites you trust or have used before when shopping for holidays online. If you are using a new website, do some research and read reviews as this will help you make sure it is legitimate. Genuine companies will usually have received positive reviews from a variety of users over time, as will trusted sellers on holiday rental marketplaces like Airbnb. So check out its history, and only use payment methods that verify the identity of the seller or company.

If something looks too good to be true it often is

The online world is full of counterfeit websites which promise huge deals on holiday packages, flights or hotels. It can be difficult for the most experienced deal-hunters to check what’s real and what’s fake, so it’s so important to do some research and price-check your booking. You may find a good deal for an usual flight time or a family holiday package, but if it’s heavily discounted then there is usually a reason why. There’s an added risk that shoppers will fall for fraudulent post-lockdown price cuts. Remember, if a deal looks too good to be true it often is.

Don’t click on links in unexpected emails or texts

Be careful not to automatically click on a link in an email or text that you didn’t expect to receive. If you’ve been browsing the Internet for a holiday then you may start to receive targeted adverts or emails, but be wary as it can be a fake link and trick unsuspecting shoppers onto fraudulent websites which ask for further details or payment verification.

Avoid being rushed or pressured to make a payment

Under no circumstances will a legitimate or trusted organisation force you to make a financial transaction on the spot, the same goes for homeowners on rental marketplaces. So if you feel pressured into confirming a booking then this is a red flag.

Make sure the website is secure.

Look for the padlock symbol in the address bar of the website and check the address starts with https://. These are both signs that the website is secure. Remember that this doesn’t tell you about the owner or the company behind the website – it’s just the site.

Listen to your instincts and follow your gut

If something feels wrong or doesn’t look credible, then don’t be afraid to question the situation. Follow your gut. Fraudsters will try and lull you into a false sense of security, so stay alert and keep an eye out for any inconsistent or unusual behaviours. While they might appear trustworthy at first, they may not always be who they claim to be.

Stay in control of your money, and report anything suspicious

If you do need to pay someone you don’t know, or you want an additional layer of security, there is technology available that can secure your payment, verifying the identity of both the buyer and seller. The money is held securely and only released once both parties agree they are happy. If you’re worried that you may be at risk, report it to the Police or Action Fraud straight away, or register the incident with CIFAS – the national fraud database – who can help protect you.

Consider cancellations and future refunds

While booking a holiday has been given the green light by the Government, it’s natural that you will still be cautious of future cancellations or even another lockdown. Large providers are required to support customers in case of cancellations out of your control and offer insurance options, but smaller operators won’t have the same obligations. It’s important to check the terms and conditions of your booking to see if your money will be protected if the holiday has to be cancelled. Make sure you buy travel insurance too, don’t assume that’s included in the booking. For added protection, you can use payments technology which holds your payment in escrow, meaning that if you’re entitled to a refund then your money is secure in case the provider refuses.