Holiday scams to be aware of

Fraudsters are poised to target the British public with ticketing, travel and health insurance scams as consumers look to book in much-needed social activities as lockdown restrictions ease. The alert comes as the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign publishes guidance below on how consumers can protect themselves in the lead-up to further easing of lockdown restrictions from 17 May.

With many people booking holidays and tickets to concerts and summer festivals, criminals are staying one step ahead by advertising holidays and tickets at low prices or for sold out events, illegally profiting from consumers who are looking for good deals or wanting to attend fully booked events. In some instances, scammers are charging people for the new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which is available free of charge, or advertising fake 'vaccine certificates' online.

Experts at impersonating trusted organisations such as travel agencies and hospitality firms, these fraudsters are using a range of sophisticated methods to approach their victims, including scam emails, telephone calls, fake websites and posts on social media. To stay safe when booking holidays and tickets, people are reminded to always follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and take a moment to stop and think before parting with their money or information in case it is a scam.

Here are some of the new ways you can be scammed when booking a holiday -

A - Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) scams

When travelling in the EU, people can access emergency and medical care with a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). This card has replaced the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Criminals are capitalising on this new card to commit fraud, by asking you for payment details when the card is FREE. They are advertising these cards on fake websites that look like that of the NHS. The sites claim to either fast-track or manage your application process before charging you an up-front fee.

Here is the link - https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/healthcare-abroad/apply-for-a-free-uk-global-health-insurance-card-ghic/

B - Vaccine certificate scams

The UK government is currently looking into the use of vaccine certificates or a passport for people to use once restrictions lift, which shows whether people have been vaccinated, have recently tested negative or have natural immunity after being ill with Covid. As we await the government's announcement, criminals will be using the opportunity to target people with fake Covid certificates and passports. They may defraud people via phishing emails, 'spoofed' calls, social media posts, fake apps or adverts claiming to be offering Covid certificates or passports. Often posts include a link leading to a fraudulent website used to steal personal and financial information in order for the criminal to commit fraud.

C - Ticketing scams

As events, concerts, festivals and theatre shows reopen from 17 May, criminals will be on the look out to take advantage of people booking these events. Criminals either set up fake websites or social media profiles to sell tickets that are either fraudulent or don't exist. Websites may even look similar to the genuine organisation's one but subtle changes in the URL can indicate that it's fraudulent. Make sure you book tickets directly through official sellers who are members of the self-regulatory body STAR, as anything else could be a scam.

Remember "is it too good to be true" then it probably is, and in all these cases follow this advice -

1 - Where possible, book directly with an established hotel or through a reputable travel company/agent that is a member of a trade body such as ABTA or ATOL.

2 - Always access the website you're purchasing from by typing it in to the web browser. Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails or social media posts. The website should use the padlock symbol to indicate that the site is secure.

3 - Always use the secure payment options recommended by reputable online travel providers and don't accept requests to pay separately via a bank transfer.

4 - Where possible, use a credit card when booking holidays over £100 and up to £30,000 as you receive protection under Section 75 of the Credit Consumer Act.

Posted: Mon, 10 May 2021 12:40 by Alison Gibson

Tags: Trading Standards