As a nation, we take more than 45 million holidays abroad every year and spend more than thirty billion pounds.
For many of us, a holiday in the sun will be the highlight of our summer. But if you’re not careful, you could become one of the many people who fall victim to holiday crime every year.
An investigation by ITV Tonight has revealed the very latest scams that criminals and con artists are already using to target British tourists.
From online booking fraud, to street crime, we have exposed their tricks, to prevent you from falling victim yourself.
Tonight questioned two thousand people for our holiday crime survey.
It shows that more than one in ten holiday makers have been victims of crime over the last five years.
Of those, 74% were scammed. The impact this can have on families can be devastating.
Holiday booking fraud
Nicky and Ralph Hooper from Brighton booked a villa on a fake accommodation website. Nicky spoke to Tonight about the moment she landed in Lanzarote and discovered that she and her family had been scammed.
Nicky is not alone. The latest report compiled by the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau reveals that there were almost 6000 reports of online booking fraud last year with a loss of £7.2 million.
Of these, 3542 cases were related to accommodation.
Some people have taken the problem into their own hands and are now fighting back against the crooks. Nick Cooper founded the holiday accommodation company Villa Plus three decades ago. Now he spends much of his time fighting the swindlers.
Nick tells Tonight how there has been an explosion of these fake holiday websites in recent years and that he estimates at least 10,000 of his company’s images have been stolen and used by fraudsters.
“There's been an explosion of these websites and its happened so quickly and suddenly that the checks in place aren't there to stop them. And we feel sick, they're doing this with our images.
"We will have a lot of people turning up crying outside some of our villas, turning up expecting to have booked it and they won’t get in I'm afraid”
Tonight's investigation has revealed over a dozen websites we believe to be fake and which are targeting holiday makers.
Some of these have gone down since we contacted them with our accusations, and subsequently passed on their details to Action Fraud, the UK’s fraud reporting centre.
These websites are:
Unfortunately you don’t only have to keep your wits about you when you’re online.
Our hidden camera footage reveals some of the commonplace scams that are designed to part tourists from their money... And if you call them out, things can turn nasty.
We have been given tip offs from the police about the latest scams happening in the top holiday destinations for Brits this summer.
In Athens in Greece, locals and tourists alike have fallen for the fake tour scam.
They book a very cheap tour after receiving a flier. When the day or the time comes for their tour it does not materialize.
The police advise to check for online reviews e.g. tripadvisor, to check for the Greek National Tourism Organisation sign and keep in mind that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
In Rome and Tuscany, police have issued warnings about the wing mirror scam.
Scammers will stop you saying that you have broken the wing mirror of their car while overtaking and will ask you for a certain amount of money to repair it (generally €150).
But in reality the mirror was already broken. Tourists often agree to pay cash, but to avoid being caught out, it’s better to go through your car rental insurance.
Look out for the fake tourist office scam, also in Italy. Scammers get t-shirts that are similar to the ones used by helpers in the train station (generally blue t-shirts) and pretend that they want to help you with your tickets or bring you the right platform.
They then ask you for money for the service or hold your ticket until you pay them some money. This has been seen in Rome Termini train station.
In Paris, we have received warnings about fake policemen. Crooks posing as policemen will ask for identification papers and even issue fines.
The actual police have advised that you should always ask to see official identification and do not part with your money; French police will not ask you for money under any circumstances. They’ve also warned about the problem of ticket touts. In this scam, someone will approach you and offer to sell you tickets
for Paris’ public transport system. When you look up the ticket prices, you’ll find that you just paid up to 10 times the normal ticket price. Police say you should only buy tickets from official ticket desks and machines inside the station.
Meanwhile, over in Orlando in Florida, police are warning of the food scammers who push fake pizza leaflets through hotel doors looking to cash in on your hunger. They’ll look tempting and will have a telephone number, but they won’t have an address. They’ll get your credit card details, but you’ll never get your pizza. The advice is if you’re not sure whether a restaurant is legitimate, don’t place an order.
On other occasions, leaflets offering reduced price tickets to theme parks are also posted through doors. If you plan on visiting one of Orlando’s many theme parks, make sure you buy your tickets from legitimate and licensed sellers. If you see a deal for tickets for a very low price, it’s usually too good to be true.
For more information on how to avoid holiday booking fraud, or what to do if you believe you are a victim, visit the links below:
ABTA – ABTA is the UK’s largest travel association. They provide top tips to help avoid holiday booking fraud and what to do if you have been a victim
Action Fraud – Action Fraud is the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre. If you’ve fallen victim to fraud or if you believe you have found a fraudulent website, you can get in touch and report it to Action Fraud
We Fight Fraud –We Fight Fraud is a new website which gives information on the different types of fraud you could fall victim to and provides tips on how to avoid it.
- Tonight: Sun, Sea and Scams is on ITV at 7.30pm on Thursday 22nd June