Geraldine Strawbridge

Geraldine Strawbridge is a graduate from the University of Glasgow. As the Editor of Cyber Radio, Geraldine is focused on delivering the latest cyber security news whilst making cyber security more relatable to people in their everyday lives.

It’s that time of the year when we’re thinking of booking a holiday and heading off to sunnier climes. With the holiday season fast approaching, consumers are heading online to check out the latest travel deals and get their summer holidays booked up.

Unfortunately, consumers are not the only ones heading online, this is one of the busiest times of the year for cyber criminals as they launch targeted scams to dupe holidaymakers into booking and paying for fake flights and holidays.

According to a recent report from the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), cybercriminals stole £6.7 million from 4,700 holidaymakers and other travellers in 2017. The average amount lost per person was over £1,500, and the most common types of fraud related to the sale of airline tickets (47%) and accommodation bookings (38%).

The Fraudsters will often try and lure victims into their trap by promoting holiday package deals or flights at extremely low prices or ‘one off’ deals that are simply too good to pass up.

The criminals will attract potential victims using fake websites, phishing emails, false advertising and scam phone calls. Often as soon as the booking is made, the fraudsters will disappear with the money and victims will be left without a holiday, and in the worst-case scenario, stranded in another country.

Despite this massive increase in fraudulent activity there are a number of steps we can take to protect ourselves online and ensure we don’t become the latest victim of the holiday fraudsters.

 How to stay safe when booking a holiday

1. Make sure your travel company is a member of a recognised trade association like ABTA or has an ATOL logo and number. ATOL is a Government guaranteed protection scheme for UK tour operators and protects over 28 million consumers each year.

2. A large number of travel websites are set up purely to defraud holiday makers. To make sure the site you are on is safe and secure, look for a padlock symbol in the address bar and check that the website URL begins with a ‘https://’ or ‘shttp://’.

3. Fraudsters are increasingly cloning websites to trick consumers into thinking they are booking through an official site. The website will appear legitimate however subtle changes to the web address will indicate that it is not a registered site. A web address that ends may be changed to a .org or it simply may not display as expected. It’s always worth double checking the address of a site to confirm its authenticity.

4. If an offer seems to go to be true, it usually is! If your flight or travel booking price is considerably cheaper than competitors, it may indicate that something is not as it seems.

5. Be suspicious if the only payment option provided is a bank transfer. Reputable booking sites will never ask consumers to pay via this method. This is a clear indication that no bank is providing credit card facilities and that if you are dealing with a fraudster, there will be no way of getting your money back.

6. You should always study the terms and conditions and be very wary of any companies that don’t provide paperwork. If you book a flight or holiday accommodation online, you should always receive a confirmation document detailing the travel arrangements and the amount of money paid. Keep a record of all documents in case any problems should arise.

7. When possible, use a credit card or debit card to book travel arrangements as it offers additional protection over other forms of payment. Some travel companies may levy a surcharge for credit card payments but it’s worth having an added layer of protection should something go wrong.

8. If you are booking a holiday with a company or website that you are unfamiliar with, do some extra research to ensure they are reputable and they are who they say they are. Google reviews of the accommodation, pay close attention to photos and make sure they are a member of a recognised travel authority with financial protection in place. There is a good chance that if a company has defrauded people in the past, consumers will have posted warnings about the company online.

9. If you need to make a payment to an individual, never transfer the money directly into their bank account. Use a secure payment site such as PayPal, which transfers money safely between two electronic accounts.

10. Make sure to log out of all sites you have logged into or registered details with. Closing your browser is not enough to ensure total privacy.