British travellers lost £6.7 million to holiday booking fraud in 2017, according to the latest figures from Action Fraud.

There were 4,700 reported cases of travellers being scammed by online fraudsters last year, with people losing over £1,500 on average, a year-on-year increase of 25%. The most common types of fraud related to airline ticket sales (47%) and accommodation booking (38%).

However, it is thought the number of victims is a lot higher as many people don’t realise they should report fraud to Action Fraud, or are just too embarrassed to report it.

Tellingly, almost half of the reported fraud victims said their health or financial wellbeing had been significantly impacted, with 575 saying they’d received medical treatment or were at risk of bankruptcy as a result.

Reports of fraud were higher in the summer and December, indicating that fraudsters were targeting the peak holiday seasons and people visiting their loved ones at Christmas. Demand is typically high and availability low at these times of year, meaning fraudsters can take advantage of people seeking good deals on flights or accommodation.

It’s also thought that fraudsters could be targeting people travelling home to visit their family in time for religious or public holidays. Of the victims who reported their destinations, 54% intended to travel to Africa, while 24% were planning a trip to Asia.

“Holidays are the perfect chance to relax and unwind. However, as this year’s statistics show, they are also an opportunity for fraudsters to trick you out of your hard-earned money,” said Pauline Smith, director of Action Fraud. “We know that fraudsters are increasingly using more sophisticated ways to trick their victims, which is why it is important that you do your research when making travel arrangements.”

Protect yourself against holiday fraud

There are plenty of ways to avoid becoming a victim of holiday fraud, but one of the best is to check whether an agency or property owner is a member of a recognised industry body such as ABTA or I-PRAC.

All I-PRAC members are thoroughly vetted by its team of experts, who conduct checks on everything from identity and property ownership to bank details and online listings. This gives travellers the peace of mind that they’re dealing with legitimate accommodation providers.

Approved members carry an ‘I-PRAC Approved’ logo and unique ID on their website and marketing material, which travellers can use to verify a property owner or agency’s identity, as well as their bank details. Holidaymakers and business travellers can also insure their accommodation payment against fraud by registering their booking with an I-PRAC member.

If you can’t see an I-PRAC logo on a company’s website, let us carry out a free property check and we’ll let you know if it’s safe to book within 48 hours.

Are you a rental agency or property owner? Click here to find out more about becoming I-PRAC approved, and how you can help us tackle accommodation fraud.