It’s not news that travellers and holidaymakers want to hear – in 2018 25% of the £7 million total lost to holiday related fraud was related to the sale of fake holiday accommodation, and with the risk only growing, it’s important to know what to do should you find yourself stranded in a foreign country, having lost a considerable amount of money.
Managing Your Holiday or Travel Crisis
At I-PRAC we’re passionate about the holiday rental industry and enabling holidaymakers and travellers to book with confidence. But the very real threat of holiday rental fraud could cause lasting, legitimate problems for property owners and rental agencies alike, and could see the impact of fraud take hold of the travel industry as a whole.
If you do discover that you have been a victim of a holiday rental scam, your next steps are crucial. That’s why we’ve collated a prioritised list of tips and processes that will help you to effectively document and report the scam, and that could help you manage your holiday crisis.
Document every event
Gather all the evidence you can from the booking process, how you found the holiday and all the contact you have had with the person or group that you booked the holiday with. Make a list of everything including website addresses, emails, phone numbers, booking and payment confirmations.
Contact the local police and other relevant authorities
Where possible you should report the holiday booking or rental scam to the local police authority in the area. They should then create a formal report of the scam – dependent on their procedures – which could not only be important for you and your personal case, but also for authorities when looking to trace the scammers themselves.
Contact your bank
Contact your card issuer immediately and report the fraud to the relevant department. You can do this regardless of whether you booked online via a website, or via an app, and according to consumer’s association, Which?, you can even escalate your claim to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).
Contact the relevant trade association
If the property owners are registered as ABTA or I-PRAC members, you should contact them, or us, as soon as possible, giving all the relevant details. If not, contact Trading Standards, who may be able to investigate your complaint further on your behalf. If the holiday was booked as a package – including flights, accommodation etc. – and the provider was a member of ATOL, you are also able to report the scam to them as the government-backed financial protection scheme.
Contact the national fraud reporting service
In the UK travellers and holidaymakers can highlight fraudulent activity or scams of any kind with Action Fraud – the national reporting centre for cyber crime and fraud. If you chose to do so, ensure that you report your experience in as much detail as you can, saving your case on the online form as you go through the reporting process – which you can revisit at any time should you need to.
At I-PRAC, we work with property owners and holiday rental agencies to put an end to holiday rental fraud, and provide insights into the industry to help holidaymakers and travellers better understand the sophistication of fraudsters. But there’s no denying that holiday booking scams are elaborate and often not easy to spot, and although everything may look as it should on the surface, it still pays to be careful and take preventative measures:
- Take a step back: It’s easy to make a snap decision when you get swept away in the moment or caught up in a last-minute holiday deal. Take a moment to step back and really examine what you’re getting for your money – is it ringing true?
- Do your research: Do plenty of research and keep an open mind when reading reviews, or looking at holiday property images, as there is a risk that these could be fake too.
- Pay safely and securely: Always pay through a secure and recognised payment system, and never directly to an owner or an account. That’s unless the property owner or agency are I-PRAC approved, in which case their bank details have been verified during their membership application.
- Look for association logos: Check for the ABTA and ATOL symbols, but be vigilant – some fraudsters use these logos on their websites regardless. It’s also important to check whether the property owner or agency are I-PRAC approved; every member has their own unique membership number on the logo, so you can check if they are legitimate by using our membership search.
- Trust your instinct: Sometimes it can be as simple as trusting your own intuition; If it doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t.
- Trust in I-PRAC: I-PRAC conduct all of the relevant checks to make sure you are booking with a legitimate provider. To find out more about our membership process, visit our approval page, and start booking with confidence.