Five holiday scams to watch out for

3 June 2010

Paying over the odds or falling victim to scammers could be your passport to a holiday from hell this summer. Here are five fraudsters you don't want to meet when it comes to your vacation.  

1. Bogus holiday salespeople

Before you even leave Britain you could become the victim of a scam holiday company: the internet and teletext provide a cloak of anonymity for such fraudsters looking to make an easy buck from innocent holidaymakers.

The old adage that if a deal looks too good to be true then it most likely is, is increasingly relevant in the internet age. While it's tempting to try and cut back on costs, you are better off paying a bit more with a reputable company you can trust.

Check if the company is a member of a trade body such as The Travel Association (ABTA) or the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) and be suspicious if the it has a large credit card loading fee or says it does not accept payment by card.

If you think you've been scammed get in touch by leaving a comment below or emailing us on and let us know exactly what has happened.

2. Fake taxi drivers

Opportunists looking for a quick buck tout themselves as tax drivers to lure weary tourists at the airport, or they get a friend/relative who works at the airport to recommend their services.

With no meter, they can charge what they like. Go to a taxi rank and make sure you only get into an official taxi, no matter how helpful or convenient other offers seem.

The same goes for at the end of a night out, when fraudsters are lurking to take advantage of your post-drinks relaxed state. At the start of the night make sure you clock where the proper taxi ranks are and never get into an unmarked cab.

3. The tour rep

Particularly with package deals, your tour rep may seem like somebody to trust: she should know the area and the best places to go to have a good time after all.

However, chances are she will have local contacts too and they'll line your rep's pockets if she sends punters their way.

Beware of your rep's recommendations for eating out and day trips because they are not necessarily the best places.

It's your holiday, so why not take some extra time to explore and trust your own instinct when it comes to choosing what to do. Alternatively, borrow a guidebook from your local library or check out for recommendations from fellow travellers.

4. Fake policemen

Research from Which? showed 5% of travellers have encountered someone posing as a policeman in the last two years.

You may think you would never fall foul of a fake 'Bobby', but these scammers are confident, cocky and prepared to take advantage of your relaxed holiday mood.

Plain-clothed 'policemen' will ask holidaymakers to see their passport or drivers licence and even ask for cash, on the pretence that you fit a suspect's description. They then run off with your passport and/or money.

Ask to see their documents before handing anything over, and also ask for their station's phone number so you can call through to verify their status.

Sometimes these fraudsters will work in pairs, so one can distract you while the other steals your wallet/passport. Although you may feel intimidated, be prepared to stand your ground and assure them you will cooperate fully once you are satisfied they are who they say.

5. Currency and card scams

Street vendors will offer to change your currency on the spot, and then either shortchange you or sell you counterfeit money.

Only change money at a reputable vendor - and if you think some notes look dodgy, don't be afraid to ask for different ones. Also be aware of the going exchange rate and don't settle for significantly less.

While chip and PIN has helped cut down the amount of card fraud suffered abroad, you should still be extra vigilant with your plastic when you're on holiday.

Never give your card or your card details to someone else and keep your card in your sights when it comes to paying for goods and services.

Before you leave the UK, take a note of the 24-hour phone number of your provider in case you need to cancel a lost or stolen card and check your statements upon your return for any unauthorised transactions.

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