Beware fraudsters selling fake flights to destinations they know you are planning to visit

Published by Stephen Little on 15 February 2019.
Last updated on 15 February 2019

Revealed: When to book to bag the cheapest flights

Half-term holidaymakers are being warned about fraudsters using new tactics to sell fake flight tickets.

Action Fraud, the national fraud and cyber-crime reporting centre, says fraudsters are trying to entice victims with the promise of cheap flights abroad.

It says that since October it has received 110 reports with total losses of £98,043.

How the scam works

Like many other scams, victims are being cold-called by fraudsters who are purporting to be from travel companies.

However, in a new twist, the fraudsters appear to know that the victim has recently been searching to book flights online.

It is suspected that the fraudsters know this because the victim has provided their contact details when making a search for flights on a bogus website which records their personal details.

Victims are then offered a deliberately low quote for their desired flight to tempt them into making payment.

After paying for their flight victims have reported receiving a confirmation email, but further enquiries with the airline have revealed their booking does not exist.

When victims have attempted to re-contact the suspect they have found they can no longer get in touch

Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, says: “We see holiday and flight related frauds at peak times throughout the year, but this type of fraud is different.

“By contacting people who have recently searched for flights online, the fraudsters are able to gain the victim’s trust much more quickly.

“It’s essential that people check with ABTA and ATOL before using a flight ticket website or broker to make sure the site is legitimately authorised.”

How to protect yourself

Action Fraud is urging people to be wary of unsolicited calls, emails and texts offering deals on flights that sounds too good to be true.

It advises people buying tickets from companies they do not know anything about to carry out research first, checking the company’s name on the ABTA and ATOL databases.

The fraud agency recommends that you should avoid paying for tickets by bank transfer as it offers you little protection if you become a victim of fraud. Instead, it suggests you should use a credit card or payment service such as PayPal.

It warns that even if a caller knows your basic details - such as your name and contact details - it doesn’t mean they are genuine.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA chief executive, says: “Travellers are at risk from increasingly sophisticated attempts to sell them fraudulent flight tickets. For those unlucky enough to fall victim to this malicious activity, it causes real financial and emotional distress, while also shattering their plans for a holiday or a visit to see family and friends.

“To protect yourself from fake flight tickets research the company you are booking with and if booking online to thoroughly check the web address to make sure it is legitimate.”

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