Holiday scams warning issued amid January peaks

Consumers are being urged to be alert to the risk of being scammed during the January peak holiday booking period.

Criminals can target holidaymakers by placing fake ads on holiday websites or pretending to be a booking agent from a legitimate company, according to a warning issued by building society Nationwide. 

In many cases they will try to move the communication away from genuine holiday websites and try and get people to make payment to an individual rather than a company via bank transfer.

New research by Nationwide shows that more than half (58%) of people don’t know or are not sure on how to check if a travel agent, tour operator or holiday booking is legitimate or not. 

Adding to the risk of being scammed is the fact that almost a third (32%) would rush into booking a break without checking thoroughly in order to make sure they got the deal – potentially leaving them vulnerable to unscrupulous scammers.

According to the poll of more than 2,000 people, 40% view booking a holiday as a priority in January because they either want to plan ahead (42%) or need something to look forward to after the festive period (40%).

The study shows that while booking agents, travel agents and airline websites remain the most popular places to look around for a holiday, one in seven (14%) search for breaks on social media sites including Facebook Marketplace and Instagram, while one in five (20%) use Airbnb to book. 

Four in ten (40%) people have had holiday adverts appear on their social media feeds, while one in five (20%) admit to getting direct messages on social media advertising a holiday. 

Social media can be a place where people let their guard down, with nearly one in ten (9%) having booked a holiday with no wider research because they have seen an influencer they follow post about the place, according to Nationwide. 

Holiday accommodation is the one area where people feel most vulnerable to being scammed (34%), trips and excursions (15%), travel (12%), vehicle rental hire (6%) and airport parking (6%) are also areas of concern for holidaymakers. 

Around a quarter (26%) admit to going into their holiday search not worrying about anything when it comes to potentially being scammed.

However, 44% of people do research after seeing a ‘limited-time deal’ appear online and many exercise a degree of healthy suspicion and awareness, the poll found.

Four in 10 (40%) would use a credit card to pay, while a third (33%) would use their debit card. But 6% also admit they would pay for a holiday with cash and one in 20 (5%) would choose to pay by bank transfer – both of which are less secure and offer less protection.

Nationwide economic crime director Jim Winters said: “January is primetime for booking holidays as we want something to look forward to – whether time in the sun or snow. 

“However, that age old adage of ‘if it looks too good to be true, it probably is’ most certainly applies with holidays – do your research and if in doubt get support.” 

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