Bogus travel agents and holiday hackers are costing British travellers the equivalent of AUD 4.25 million a year through various ripoffs including fake websites, bogus adverts and email scams. Holiday travel insurance fraudsters are busy as well.
Britain’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (a police unit set up in 2010 to combat fraud) has been looking into travel scams.
A new report highlights cases of rogues and ripoff artists setting up fake websites to offer “phantom accommodation” and selling flights without actually making bookings.
According to an analysis of the British fraud report published in Britain’s Daily Mirror, the most common crime involves hackers gaining access to the accounts of genuine property owners on holiday accommodation websites, or setting up their own copycat sites. Similar scams are perpetuated online in Australia.
Disappointed holidaymakers arrive to find their accommodation either hasn’t been booked, or in some cases doesn’t even exist.
The NFIB report says UK caravan stays are being targeted with ads for non-existent accommodation posted on Facebook, Gumtree and Craigslist.
Almost 1600 fraud cases were reported to the City of London police’s Action Fraud hotline last year. Most victims were fleeced after using bank-to-bank transfers to pay for holidays.
A third of the victims said the scams had affected their health. Nearly 170 were so traumatised they needed medical treatment, the paper reported.
One victim was left stranded in the US after paying GBP 1200 (AUD 2320) to a bogus travel agent.
Meanwhile, British detectives have arrested 11 people in a blitz on travel insurance claims suspected to be exaggerated or made up.
The nationwide travel insurance operation was part of an ongoing investigation by the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED) into claims ranging from just over AUD 1000 to more than AUD 30,000 for clothing and electrical items reported lost or stolen, and medical expenses incurred, abroad.
One claim under scrutiny related to AUD 6000 worth of clothing and mobile phones allegedly stolen from a taxi in Baghdad.
Written by Peter Needham