Which? says the pandemic has given fraudsters new opportunities to rip people off
Warning over email and social media holiday scams linked to COVID refunds and Brexit
Consumer watchdog Which? is warning travellers about six new holiday scams and rip-offs, as international travel returns.
It said fraudsters are setting up bogus companies to sell imaginary flights and offering fake refunds to extract bank details and steal money.
“The pandemic has provided new opportunities for fraudsters to exploit victims,” warned Which?
“Covid-related scams spawned from rapidly evolving travel rules, coupled with widespread desperation for holidays after months of lockdown, created the perfect conditions for cyber-crime.
“Even Brexit legislation has been leapt on by some unscrupulous traders as a chance to rip people off.”
It said one of the “cruellest” scams targets people awaiting refunds for cancelled holidays. Scammers are cold-calling travellers and impersonating airlines, travel agents and banks, claiming they need their bank details and personal information to process the refund.
But instead of doing so, they use this information to steal money from the customer, leaving them doubly out of pocket.
Rogue travel companies are selling fake flights and others are promoting some of the most popular stays with scam adverts on social media, offering apparent late or peak-season availability for holidays that appear to be sold out elsewhere.
Customers are enticed to click through to a website where they book and pay for a holiday that doesn’t exist.
Some customers do not realise they have been defrauded until they turn up at the airport or at their accommodation and find they are unable to check in.
The National Health Service has also been imitated by criminals, who email people to apply for a digital vaccine passport.
The email is a phishing scam to steal personal information.
Which? has also seen firms charging travellers as much as $99 (£75) for passenger locator forms, which can be obtained from the government for free, while others are charging fees for the free Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) and international driving permits.
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “Criminals are exploiting the pandemic and the demand for holidays in a wide range of ways, laying new traps to trick unsuspecting travellers out of their money.
“Our advice for consumers is to be wary of unsolicited calls and messages, and be cautious about holiday deals from unfamiliar firms.
“If you think you’ve been the victim of a scam, you should report this to Action Fraud and your bank. Anyone who is struggling to get their money back from their bank should contact the Financial Ombudsman Service to review their case.”