Fraudsters steal £7m a year from UK holidaymakers, police say
Fraudsters are stealing as much as £7m a year from UK holidaymakers, a report by police suggests.
Criminals are faking airline tickets and accommodation adverts, and selling bogus package holidays, according to the City of London Police's National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB).
One couple lost more than £1,000 after booking what they thought was a romantic break with a bogus company.
Travel industry experts urged people to do their research before booking.
The NFIB says more than 4,500 cases of holiday-booking fraud were reported in a 12-month period.
Airline-ticket fraud accounted for around 21% of the total scams in 2013, with flights to West Africa a particular target.
About 30% of victims fell foul of fake adverts for holiday villas and apartments.
The report said that some people arrived at their destination only to discover they had nowhere to stay.
Laura Parks from Thirsk, North Yorkshire, booked a Valentine's Day weekend break at Loch Ness for herself and her husband, Sean, a soldier on leave from Afghanistan.
They paid to stay in a lodge advertised on Facebook. But photos of the accommodation had been taken from another website - and the real owners had nothing to do with the people Mrs Parks had paid.
When the couple arrived, they were stranded in a blizzard.
NFIB director Detective Superintendent Peter O'Doherty said the internet had changed the way people booked holidays and was "enabling fraudsters to prey upon those looking for that perfect break".
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), said: "Fraudsters are conning unsuspecting holidaymakers and travellers out of thousands of pounds each year - leaving them out of pocket or stranded with nowhere to stay through fake websites, false advertising, bogus phone calls and email scams."
The NFIB, ABTA and web security advice organisation Get Safe Online are all warning of possible holiday fraud ahead of the Ryder Cup this year, and the football World Cup in Brazil in the summer.
Abta has a full list of tips on how to avoid becoming a victim on its website.