Scammers target travellers as holiday spending returns

Scams linked to holiday bookings have increased by one-third over the past year, as fraudsters take advantage of the recovery in the travel industry.

Analysis from Lloyds Bank found a wide variation in the average value of thefts by scammers, depending on the booking type.

“Now that most pandemic restrictions have come to an end, many of us will be looking forward to a more traditional summer holiday this year,” said Liz Ziegler, a director at Lloyds Bank. “But with demand soaring and prices rising fast, would-be holidaymakers can’t afford to let their guard down when hunting for the best deals.”

Fraudulent caravan bookings showed the biggest increase in fraud, which rose by more than 100 per cent over the year. By contrast, scams related to flights increased only 13 per cent, but had a far higher average sum lost — close to £2,955 compared with £374.

The incidence of false package holidays increased by 17 per cent and hotels 18 per cent, with an average cost to consumers of £2,342 and £1,231 respectively.

Lloyds said that many of the scams took the form of fake advertisements on search engines or social media sites impersonating genuine firms.

In some cases, fraudsters used real accommodation listing sites as a means of finding victims, then convinced them to transfer money directly to them rather than through official platforms.

Travel is hardly the only industry which has been affected by fraud, as a pandemic-driven boom in time spent on online platforms has increased the number of potential avenues for fraudsters.

Research in April by Visa and Aston University’s Institute for Forensic Linguistics into the language of fraud found that a quarter of 18- to 34-year-olds in the UK would trust scam messages, and the same proportion would not check for spelling and grammar mistakes.

The latest figures on fraud released by the Office for National Statistics found 5.1mn offences in the year ending September 2021, a 36 per cent increase compared with the year ending September 2019.

The UK’s online safety bill, which had its second reading in the House of Commons last week, would impose a duty of care on social media platforms and search engines to protect their users from various kinds of user-generated and paid-for fraud, including romance and investment scams.

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