Travellers have been warned about a new scam that could leave them paying for fake plane tickets.
Evidence from Action Fraud has revealed that fraudsters are attempting to entice victims who they know have searched for cheap flights abroad.
The UK’s national fraud reporting service has received 110 reports dating since October with total losses so far amounting to £98,043.
The scam begins when victims are cold called by the con artists who pretend to be from travel companies.
Worryingly, fraudsters seem to have access to people’s personal details with intelligence suggesting they know the victim has recently been searching to book flights online.
It is suspected this is due to victims providing their contact details when searching for flights on fake websites that records personal information.
Many of the victims wrongly believe the calls are genuine and have made payments to the fraudsters after a deliberately low quote has been offered to encourage them to hand over money.
Once the payments are made, victims have reported receiving a confirmation email – but after further enquiries with the airline they supposedly flying with, they discover bookings do not exist.
Victims who have then tried to attempt contact with the person who sold them the flights have not been able to reach them.
Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud said: ‘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 stay safe:
Action Fraud is urging people to be on the alert for any unsolicited calls, emails and texts that offer deals too good to be true on flights.
If you are looking to purchase tickets from a company you don’t know and/or trust, it has suggested carrying out some research by simply searching the company’s name on the ABTA and ATOL databases.
It is also advisable to ask family and friends for advice before handing over any money.
The fraud service has encouraged people to avoid paying for any flight tickets by bank transfer as it offers you little protection if you are then a victim of fraud.
Instead, it has suggested using a credit card or a payment service, such as PayPal.
The service is reiterating that people should never reveal any of their personal or financial details when on an unsolicited call, email or text.
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, said: ‘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.
‘For further advice visit our website and if you think you’ve bought a fraudulent ticket report it to Action Fraud.’