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Probe reveals astonishing extent of holiday crime

July 5, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Scams, rogues, ripoffs and cheats – nobody wants to hear such words in the same sentence as “holiday” – but a recent investigation has shown that crooks are targeting holidaymakers as never before.

A probe conducted by British television show ITV Tonight has revealed some of the tricks now current. Some are universal, and Australian travellers are just as likely to fall for them.

ITV Tonight questioned 2000 people for its holiday crime survey and found that one in 10 British holidaymakers had fallen victim to crime over the past five years. Of those, 74% were scammed. The impact this can have on families can be devastating.

The program looked at a couple who had booked a villa on a fake accommodation website. The same thing has happened to Australian travellers who book online – they turn up and find they have no booking, or that the property doesn’t even exist.  A woman on the ITV program said she didn’t realise she and her family had been scammed until she arrived at the destination – and then learned at the airline desk the same thing had happened to 15 families the day before.

Looks delicious, but is it a pizza scam?

An investigation by the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau found that Briton’s suffered almost 6000 incidents of online booking fraud last year with a loss of well over AUD 10 million. Of these, 3542 cases were related to accommodation.

Legitimate holiday accommodation operators report an explosion of fake holiday websites in recent years, with scammers stealing thousands of images from genuine websites to use on fraudulent sites.

Some the other scams the program warns about:

Fake tours. In Greece, locals and tourists alike have fallen for this scam, in which a flier promotes very cheap tours. When the day or the time comes for the tour, it does not materialise.

Wing mirror scam. In Rome and Tuscany, scammers will stop travellers in rental cars, saying that the visitors have broken the wing mirror of their car while overtaking. They will demand money to repair it. In reality, the mirror was already broken.

Fake tourist office scam. Also reported in Italy. Scammers wearing T-shirts similar to those used by helpers in train stations pretend that they want to help tourists with their tickets or take them to the right platform. They then demand cash for the service refuse to give tickets back unless paid.

Fake policemen. In Paris, crooks posing as policemen have asked for identification papers and even issued fines.

Pizza scammers. This one is reported in Orlando, Florida. Con artists push fake pizza leaflets through hotel doors – showing delicious food very cheap. Tourists phone to book a pizza and the crooks take credit card details. No pizza ever materialises. Similar swindles use different bait – cut-price tickets to theme parks.

Written by Peter Needham

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