With international travel restrictions still in place, many Scots will look to book getaways within the UK this summer, following the reopening of tourist accommodation and relaxation of travel restrictions across Scotland on 26th April.
However, holidaymakers are being warned to be wary of scams after a significant number of consumer issues with holiday bookings were reported in 2020. These included fake accommodation listings on social media, cold calls and unsolicited emails offering holiday deals, scam websites and fake reviews on popular travel websites.
Demand for popular destinations is likely to be high, particularly during the summer months, and scammers may look to take advantage of this by creating fake social media accounts and websites to advertise accommodation that does not exist or that has already been booked.
In August 2020, scammers posted fake adverts on social media for caravan breaks at the Craig Tara Holiday Park in Ayrshire. One woman paid £250 in cash for a four-night break at the park, only to discover on arrival that the caravan was not owned by the person advertising it. The fraudster had used pictures of a different caravan and did not have any affiliation with the park.
Although the woman was able to book a last-minute break through the holiday park, she was left £250 out of pocket.
Fake Glamping Adverts
Last year, a company offering glamping holidays noticed that some of their accommodation, which was already fully booked for the summer, was being advertised on fake social media accounts. The link in these adverts led to a scam website which looked very similar to the genuine site and had a similar URL.
Avoid a #Scamcation
Does the holiday exist?
Do plenty of research before booking a holiday online. Before booking a holiday which you’ve seen on social media or in an unsolicited email, contact the company via their official website or publicly listed phone number to check that it is legitimately available at the price quoted and for the required dates.
Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails or social media adverts as they could lead to copycat websites which look similar to genuine booking websites, with similar URLs.
Scammers may also post fake accommodation listings to sites such as Airbnb and often ask for payment via bank transfer or outside the site’s payment system. Be wary if a listing asks you to contact the host outside the website’s mail system.
Be wary of cold calls offering holiday deals – never give any personal or financial details to a cold caller. If they say they are phoning from a particular holiday company, do some research into the company and contact them using a publicly listed number or via their official website.
Is it too good to be true?
Be suspicious if you see a holiday advertised on social media or in an unsolicited email at significantly reduced price. Scammers will be aware of Scottish destinations which are in high demand this summer and may create fake deals try to take advantage of holidaymakers.
Is the company advertising the holiday authorised to do so?
Where possible, book holidays and accommodation directly with the provider or through a reputable agent. Avoid booking through adverts on social media platforms or in unsolicited emails.
If you are unfamiliar with a company, check that they are a member of a recognised trade association such as ABTA or that they have been recognised by a national tourism organisation such as Visit Scotland.
Avoid copycat websites created by scammers – search for the company or check their official social media accounts to make sure that a URL is genuine.
What do other people say?
Scammers often post fake reviews to make their websites or holiday adverts appear legitimate. Don’t rely on reviews from one site alone – look at different review sites and look up the company or accommodation provider on a search engine to see what others have said about them.
Are you protected if something goes wrong?
Where possible, pay for holidays using a credit card rather than via bank transfer – this will offer you more protection if you are a victim of fraud or if something goes wrong. It will also prevent scammers from obtaining your payment details.
Be suspicious if a provider will only give you the option to pay by cash or bank transfer.
Before making any payments, check the terms and conditions of the booking and the cancellation policy. Accommodation providers and holiday companies should have clear information about what to do if you need to change or cancel your booking due to Covid-19.
Make sure that you have contact details for the company or provider and be suspicious if they cannot provide receipts, invoices or terms & conditions.
Where to report scams?
Report all holiday scams to Advice Direct Scotland, either using their free consumer helpline on 0808 164 6000 or via scamwatch.scot.
If you have been the victim of fraud, report it to Police Scotland on 101.