How to protect yourself from scams when booking a holiday online

The recent Covid-19 pandemic put a lot of restrictions on our lives and for several years, people around the globe were unable to travel outside their own country. Luckily, life has largely returned to normal and we can enjoy exploring the world again.

Unfortunately, criminals are taking advantage of the resurgence in international travel and many people have been caught out by holiday scams. These kinds of scams are especially prevalent during the cost of living crisis as consumers search for the most affordable deals.

That’s why it’s important to be vigilant and always do due diligence before booking a trip.

Read on to learn more about holiday scams and how you can protect yourself from them.

Consumers lost £12.3 million to holiday fraud in 2023

As the cost of living crisis continues and holidaymakers search online for the best prices, holiday scams are a significant danger.

According to MoneyWeek, consumers lost £12.3 million to various types of holiday fraud in 2023 and there are several different scams that you might fall victim to.

For instance, scammers may clone websites such as Airbnb or, making them look almost exactly the same as the real site. They often use adverts on social media or emails to share links and drive consumers to the fake site. Victims then book accommodation or flights that don’t exist and share their bank details with criminals.

Fake cancellation refunds are another common scam. If your flight or hotel is cancelled, you may receive an email claiming to be from the travel company, encouraging you to share your bank details for a refund.

You will often see adverts on social media for “unmissable” deals too. Many of these are scams designed to create a fear of missing out on the best price, so you part with your money quickly.

Criminals can be very convincing in their methods so anybody can fall victim to these scams. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself.

5 ways to protect yourself from holiday scams

While retailers want to stay competitive and you will often find discounted holidays available, it’s important to remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you see adverts for flights or accommodation for a fraction of the price you can find it anywhere else, proceed with caution.

When you do book a trip, you may want to follow these steps to protect yourself from scams.

1. Do your research

It’s easy to get excited by a seemingly good deal but it’s important to do your research before you share any bank details, especially if you’ve never used the company before.

Spend some time researching flight or accommodation providers and look for online reviews on sites such as Google, Tripadvisor and Trustpilot. Often, by searching the name of the company online, you can see whether other people have been caught out by scams.

That said, this research doesn’t necessarily guarantee that a site is safe because criminals can make very convincing clone websites.

2. Look for ATOL and ABTA certifications

Travel companies typically hold certifications that prove they are legitimate providers. The two main types in the UK are the:

  • Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (ATOL)
  • Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA).

Companies display the ATOL and ABTA logos on their website to show that they are certified, so always look out for this before booking. However, it’s easy for criminals to add the logo to a false site so you may need to conduct further checks.

You can use the ATOL and ABTA online checking tools to search the database and see whether a company is officially certified.

3. Don’t click links from emails or social media adverts

Generally, it’s sensible to avoid clicking on links in emails or social media adverts, even if you’re confident that they come from a trusted source. This is because scammers can make very realistic emails or adverts that are almost imperceptible from the genuine communications you receive from travel companies.

So, instead of following the link in an email or advert, go directly to the website and you will see whether the deal is available.

4. Protect your personal information

If you do put your details into a scam site, information such as your email and passwords could allow criminals to access various accounts.

It’s important that you protect this personal information so even if you do inadvertently share some details, your other accounts are secure. You can do this by setting strong passwords and changing them regularly.

Many sites also allow you to set up two-factor authentication. This requires a unique code, often sent to your phone, as well as your password to access accounts. Activating this could make it far more difficult for scammers to use personal information they steal from you.

5. Pay with a credit card

Paying with a credit card may give you more protection when booking a holiday. Under Section 75, your credit card company is equally as liable as the retailer if you are the victim of fraud, provided the purchase costs between £100 and £30,000.

As a result, your credit card company will typically refund you if you are scammed. Yet, you don’t have the same protection if you pay using a debit card.

Get in touch

If you need guidance about protecting your wealth, we are here to help.

Email or call 0333 241 9900.

Please note

This article is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

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