Holidaymakers are being warned to watch out for villa scams which have left tourists conned out thousands of pounds.
Barclays’ research found 37% of customers who reported being fleeced by a villa booking scam lost between £1,000 and £5,000.
Scams can happen when criminals use fake property details to trick holidaymakers into sending them money, or if they hijack the details of a real rental property and pretend they own it.
More than a third (36%) of victims were aged 30 to 44 years old.
Ross Martin, Barclays head of digital safety, said: “Trying to escape those January blues may seem like an appealing prospect, but fraudsters are preparing to take advantage of sun seekers at this time of year.
“We must all be aware of the risks and make sure we are carrying out proper safety checks to ensure our online security and enjoy a scam-free holiday.”
As well as looking at its own data on villa scams between April and October 2017, Barclays also surveyed more than 2,000 consumers.
Barclays says 43% of those quizzed would not be worried if they were asked to pay via a bank transfer. Usually, customers have less protection if they are tricked into a direct bank transfer, as the bank would be acting on their instruction.
Only 45% take steps to check their booking is protected by a consumer protection scheme body, like Abta, which leaves them with less security if something goes wrong.
A quarter (26%) were perfectly prepared to risk a dodgy booking if the price appeared to be a bargain.
Mark Tanzer, Abta chief executive said: “Abta sees at first-hand the damage caused by travel fraudsters with the many devastated customers who contact us for advice after they find out their much-anticipated holiday or trip to visit loved ones may not actually exist.
“The cost to them is not just financial; this crime causes very real disappointment and emotional distress.
“However this does not need to happen. Check and follow the tips and advice on abta.com and you will not fall victim to these unscrupulous individuals.
“But if you are unlucky enough to do so, always report it to Action Fraud so that they can put these crooks out of business.”
Barclays’ tips for staying safe while booking holidays
1. Is the offer too good to be true?
Do your research. If a villa is advertised at half the going rate and has great availability in peak season when everywhere else is full, this should tell you something. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
2. Do an internet search on the location.
If the villa in question appears to be advertised by other companies under another name, this may also be a warning sign. Be sure to do thorough research before making any booking.
3. Are they asking you to pay by transfer?
Scammers love bank transfers. The money goes straight from your account to theirs and then they take it straight out and it disappears. By the time you realise that something is wrong, they are long gone.
4. Look for companies that have a real location and real phone numbers.
Be suspicious of businesses that will only communicate via email and mobile phone. It is worth checking the address or even looking at the location through an online street map. Make sure you check that the travel agent and website is certified, and that your payment is going to the right people.
5. Before you commit to anything, stop and take time to think.
If it is a legitimate company, five minutes is not going to make any difference – and it could save you thousands of pounds and untold heartache.
Further tips for avoiding fraud can be found at barclays.co.uk/security.
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