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Holiday fraud and scams to avoid

From pickpockets to luggage thieves, here are some of the scams you need to watch out for while travelling, and how to avoid them.

Woman picking tourists pocket

Fake booking websites

The internet has opened up a whole new category of cons, particularly in the travel industry.

Scammers will hack or imitate trusted sites to sell fake or non-existent holiday deals. More than 1,500 such cases were reported in the UK in 2014.

And it’s not until days or weeks later that you’ll find out you’ve been scammed, when confirmation emails fail to appear.

How to protect yourself

Avoid paying for anything online by cheque or bank transfer – using credit or debit cards should give you additional protection.

Watch out for firms offering discounts for paying in full, up front. Most legit bookers will request an initial deposit, with full payment due shortly before your trip.

And before making any payments, search the name of the company you’re using and look out for warnings of potential fraud, or previous customer complaints.

Scams at the checkouts

Foreign currency can be difficult to grasp, and exchange rates can make figuring out what you’ve spent difficult.

Some checkout assistants will try to take advantage of this by short-changing you, banking on you not knowing how much you’re due, or recognising the amount you’ve been given.

How to avoid it

Try to always be aware of how much you’re spending before you reach the checkout, and take your time while paying.

Scammers may often try to move and talk quickly to frustrate and confuse you, but take your time and count your change to make sure you’re not getting conned.

Holiday pickpockets

Pickpockets love tourists

Crowds of tourists in the summer months can mean rich rewards for pickpockets, taking advantage of unsuspecting holidaymakers.

By bumping into you or distracting you with an accomplice, they can lift your wallet from your pocket or bag in seconds.

They'll often also be targeting your shopping bags, sunglasses, mobile phones, and just about anything they can get their hands on.

How to protect yourself

If possible, keep valuables like your wallet, credit cards and passport in a closed or zip-locked bag or pocket. Better yet, leave anything non-essential in your room or safe.

Be aware of people trying to distract you, and always be mindful of where your valuables are, especially after anyone nudges or bumps into you.

A good travel insurance policy is one way to ensure that if you are the victim of a theft, you’ll get help recovering or replacing your lost goods.

If you make a claim for stolen items, you’ll need to report it as stolen to the local police and get a police report.

Airport parking alternatives

Extortionate charges for parking at airports drive many of us to look for alternatives, such as private, off-site car parks.

But they're not always as safe as they seem. Many of these car parks are not obligated to keep your car in a secure location, and can move it anywhere they like.

You may also find they offer no protection for theft or damage to the car while in their care.

How to avoid it

Read the small print on the contract carefully, and research the company before signing anything.

It's also worth looking into hotels near the airport, which can often offer cheap or free parking for the duration of your trip.

Bogus event ticket sales

Ticket fraud victims

The holiday season is rife with festivals and events, both in the UK and abroad, which often attract bogus ticket sellers.

Scammers can appear online, in auctions or classified ads. In the case of festivals and gigs, they can turn up outside the venue itself, selling fake and forged tickets.

How to avoid it

Ideally, you should only buy tickets from venues or recognised agencies. If you do buy from a ticket tout, try to find out where they work and check them out online first.

Taxi tricks

There are dozens of scams involving taxis, both in the UK and abroad. Here are a few you should look out for:

Unofficial taxis, which may or may not take you to your destination, will often take longer and charge more.

In some countries, you can get out of a taxi before the driver does and watch them speed off with your luggage, or hold it hostage until you pay another fee.

Taxi drivers may also try to inflate prices by telling you they have to pay airport fees, exaggerated road tolls, or by not resetting the meter at the start of your journey.

So remember to stay vigilant during your trip, to avoid being taken advantage of. 

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First published July 2014.



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Dave Rendell

Dave Rendell, digital marketing executive at Confused.com

Dave Rendell is a digital marketing executive at Confused.com, and has worked in insurance since 2011. When he's not at work, you'll usually find him up a ladder decorating, or under a car, tinkering.

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