Don't get ripped off by fake airline tickets, timeshare schemes or travel scams with our guide to six cons that target people booking holidays.
The first few months of the year are some of the busiest times for holiday bookings, as those fed up with the cold, wet weather think about escaping to sunnier climes.
But if you are about to book a holiday, you need to be on your guard, as fraudsters are ready to pounce on those distracted by the excitement of organizing a trip to a dream destination.
Here we look at six of the common scams, the warning signs, and the steps you can take to protect yourself.
1. Dodgy accommodation websites
When booking a holiday, you need to keep your wits about your to avoid getting duped by a fake travel website.
A common crime sees fraudsters hacking into the accounts of well-known accommodation sites, or redirecting people to bogus imitations.
If the company has been defrauding people – or has a bad reputation – it’s likely that consumers will have posted warnings about it.
Also look to see if the holiday provider is a member of a recognized trade body, such as Abta or Atol.
2. Fake airline tickets
You need to check – and check again – that the plane tickets you are buying are genuine. If not, you could end up parting with cash for a fake ticket, or a ticket that never arrives. Flights to West Africa are particularly prone.
If the flight prices you are looking at are considerably cheaper than competitors, proceed with caution, as this could be a scam.
You should also be wary if you are offered a discount for paying the whole bill upfront. Most legitimate bookings will require you to pay a deposit, and then the remaining balance a month or so before the trip.
3. Watch out for fraudsters targeting big sporting events and caravan stays
It’s also worth noting that big sporting events are often targeted by conmen, with sports fans ending up out of pocket on hotels and tickets for events such as the recent World cup in Brazil.
In addition, criminals will often target caravan stays, and will post fake promotions for accommodation on Facebook, as well as advertising websites, Craigslist and Gumtree.
4. Take care before posting holiday details on Facebook
Think carefully before posting any information about your forthcoming trip on a social-networking site, such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, as you could end up essentially advertising the fact you are going to be away.
Fraudsters will trawl sites such as these in search of details about people’s holiday plans, and could then target your empty property while you are away, safe in the knowledge that you are not at home.
5. Watch out for copycat websites
If you need to apply for a new passport for your holiday, take care not to get caught out by a copycat website. These sites offer access to online Government services, but often charge a premium for a public service which is either free – or much cheaper – when accessed via the official site.
To avoid getting duped, go directly to the Gov.uk site.
Also exercise caution when applying for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) – the card which entitles you to state-provided healthcare either at a reduced cost, or for free.
6. Fraudulent resort presentations
Once you’re on holiday, keep your wits about you if you get invited to a so-called “holiday club” presentation in the resort in which you’re staying.
You may be persuaded into attending by the lure of a “free” holiday.
But if you’re not careful, you could get duped into buying a timeshare – and if you pay by bank transfer or cash, there is often no means of getting your money back.