As the breeze carries whispers of spring, the minds of many turn to vacations, rest and recreation, mountain air, sunshine and sea. It’s the holiday season. But beware. Ever-changing travel rules, and a strong desire to get away after months of lockdown, have created ideal conditions for scam artists.
And while we don’t want to rain on your plans it’s a good idea to be aware of some scams that could well surface as you’re planning/booking your holiday. Here are some that are already beginning to surface online.
Charging for passenger locator forms
Ads are appearing in search engines for passenger locator forms. These still need to be filled in for entry to many countries allowing governments to check you have fulfilled entry requirements. However, many of the search engine ads are charging as much as $99 (£75) for these forms when they are actually free on government websites. Be careful. As you search for ‘passenger locator form’ these scam ad may rank higher in the search than the official government site.
Scam digital vaccine passports
Most countries need proof of vaccination status for entry and fraudsters have been quick to use this for their advantage. Emails have been circulating inviting people to apply for a digital vaccine passport. But the NHS-branded website these mails linked to is fake. Some also tried to create a sense of urgency, claiming the appointment would be passed onto the next person in the queue if rejected or that a reply was required within 72 hours. These emails are a phishing ploy to obtain people’s personal details to carry out identity fraud.
Fraudulent holiday ads on social media
Almost a third of holiday booking fraud in the last two years took place on social media, according to Action Fraud. 62% of victims were targeted on Facebook. Don’t be tempted to click on a link that arrives via a social media message. Always book via a travel official site or contact the owners of the holiday property being advertised directly. It’s also a good idea to search the internet for negative reviews or forum posts by previous customers.
Fake charges for global health insurance card and international driving permits
Scammers have also been charging for the new global health insurance card which is free from the NHS. Some scammers even bought adverts from search engines to allow them to appear at the top of the search page.
Fraudsters have also been selling international driving permits Spain for $49. These permits only cost £5.50 from the Post Office, and they’re only needed for those with an old paper licence. In short be wary of the paid-for search-engine results. The genuine official site is the often the first or second link below the paid-for boxed adverts.
Cloned airline tickets websites
In 2020, more than half of all travel scams were related to airfares, according to Action Fraud. Some 7% of victims were snared by clone flight comparison and booking websites after searching for flights online. The victim is then typically contacted by someone claiming to be from the airline, or flight-comparison website, to take them through the booking and arrange payment.
Some didn’t realise they had been defrauded until they turned up at the airport and were unable to check in. When searching for flights make sure the company is a member of a trade association such as Abta or Atol. If you have doubts about whether a website is legitimate don’t use it. Do a search and see if other people have made comments relating to fraud.