‘Immediate red flag’ Key ways you could be ‘being scammed’ on last-minute holiday

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With just short of a month left of school summer holidays, households might be considering a last-minute escape for a break while they still can. In some cases, heading down the last-minute route can enable good savings, but in other cases, unfortunately, it provides scammers with an opportunity to strike.

With the surge in flight cancellations taking place up and down the country amid continued airport staff strikes, the risk of holiday scammers has only increased.

There are some telltale signs that you might have come across a dodgy website or deal, so it’s absolutely vital you’re able to spot them before it’s too late.

Connor Campbell, personal finance expert at NerdWallet said: “During the pandemic, travellers were warned of a proliferation of fake travel companies threatening to retain offering refunds and/or compensation for cancelled trips, while secretly stealing personal information – and people should continue to be wary of this during the surge of flight cancellations.”

Scams most often occur when holidaymakers are contacted by criminals purporting to be from travel companies, tour operators, or insurers offering to refund or rebook cancelled holidays.

Another popular way for scammers to strike is by setting up fake websites and offering refunds and compensation to holidaymakers.

So, what are the red flags to look out for when booking a holiday last minute?

Last-minute holiday red flags

Mr Campbell said: “Normally, fake websites or phone numbers appear when people search online for flights.

“Red flags can include booking the flight through the website or over the phone, but when you receive the confirmation email it’s clear that you didn’t get a proper flight ticket.

“Another scenario is booking a flight on a travel website offering deals and paying with your credit card. After paying, you receive a phone call from the company saying that there’s been a sudden price increase and you need to pay an extra fee to finalise your booking.

“This is an immediate red flag as a legitimate company wouldn’t do this, meaning you are being scammed.”

To avoid getting as far as submitting any bank details, there are certain steps and warning signs to look out for first and foremost.

Research the company

Firstly, if you come across an unfamiliar company offering a deal seeming too good to be true, conduct thorough research on the site before starting your purchase.

Search for reviews of the company and run the website through a URL checker.

Check the URL

Mr Campbell said: “It is important you double-check the URL before you enter personal or payment information.

“Normally, secure links start with ‘https:/’ and include a lock icon on the purchase page.”

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The lock symbolises that the connection between your web browser and the website server is encrypted, which means it conceals data by converting it to a code inaccessible to third parties.

Check for contact details

Always be wary of third-party websites, especially if there aren’t any visible contact details.

Mr Campbell said: “You should always be suspicious of websites that don’t have an available customer service number and no physical address.”

Us a credit card to book

According to Mr Campbell, it’s much safer to use a credit card instead of a debit card when booking anything online.

Fraudulent charges made on a credit card can usually be disputed, whereas the process with a debit card can be slightly more complicated.

How to claim compensation safely

Always be wary of fraudulent compensation emails dropping into your inbox.

Mr Campbell said: “If you receive an email purporting to be sent by a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) representative, delete it straight away.

“The CAA advises affected passengers to contact their airline in the first instance.”

If you’re hoping to make a claim after a cancelled flight, always check the airline’s terms and conditions first.

Mr Campbell said: “Whilst most airlines will provide a refund or an alternative flight, some may also provide assistance during the disruption.

“Also, remember to check your travel insurance as this may cover you for the cost of accommodation and other additional expenses.”

Protect your money

When it comes to protecting your money, it’s important to never send your personal, credit card or banking details in an email or over the phone, as scammers can record and use these to commit identity fraud or steal your money.

Mr Campbell said: “If you ever feel unsure whether you have received a legitimate request, call the airline using contact details from legitimate sources, such as the airline’s own contact page, or a telephone directory.

“Don’t rely on the contact details provided to you in an email or over the phone.”

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