The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) issued a warning to holidaymakers to be vigilant for scammers offering fake holiday deals.
As well as exploiting passport renewal delays with fake ‘fast-track’ options, the highly advanced and sophisticated scammers are even creating fake social media advertisements, with images of holidays at a low-cost price.
With the advancements of scammers stealing money from unsuspecting holidaymakers, staying safe online and being vigilant when booking a holiday is more important than ever, as the summer holiday season approaches.
Sam Whillance, an expert at online e-commerce platform Deal.Town, shares 8 tips on what holidaymakers should be looking out for to ensure that a booking website is safe, and how to avoid falling victim to scammers if a holiday does seem to be true.
Steer clear of deals that seem too good to be true
If a website or social media post appears to be offering a holiday that simply seems too good to be true, then chances are, it may well be.
If they are offering a luxury holiday or luxury cottage accommodation at an extremely low price, it could be an indicator of a potential scam. Yes, many reputable holiday sites do often offer flash deals and discounts but always do your research before booking.
Whilst laws and regulations worldwide vary, legitimate, reputable online retailers should have a clear privacy statement and if they don’t, this could be a red flag.
Check the SSL certificate
SSL, standing for ‘Secure Sockets Layer’, is an indication that a website is secure for making purchases using your personal information.
In other words, it is an encryption method that websites asking for sensitive or personal information, such as your credit card details, should have in place.
To ensure that a holiday booking website has an up-to-date SSL certificate, look out for a padlock icon in the URL bar of your web browser. Or alternatively, check that the URL starts with HTTPS, not HTTP (the S stands for ‘secure’). If not, this could potentially be a red flag as a fake holiday booking website.
Reverse search the images in Google Chrome
As holiday fraudsters are using fake photos of holidays and accommodations to entice unsuspecting holidaymakers, reverse searching the images is one way to spot if the website is legitimate or not.
If a website is fake and is using images from other websites, reverse searching will show you where else the same image features online, quickly allowing you to identify a scam holiday site.
To search reverse search an image from a website, simply:
On your computer, go to the Chrome browser.
Go to the website with the image you want to use.
Right-click the image.
Click ‘Search Image’ with Google Lens to display results in a sidebar.
More information on reverse searching images in Google Chrome can be found here: https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/1325808?hl=en&co=GENIE.Platform%3DDesktop
Check if the website accepts credit cards
Credit cards are one of the safest methods for making online transactions. This is because it’s easier for credit card issuers to refund money lost to fraud.
Websites that don’t accept credit card payments could be a warning signal, as it is a lot more difficult for fraudulent websites to become certified by credit card companies.
Remember, when booking a holiday, always opt for a protected method of payment, such as credit cards, debit cards, or with PayPal’s Buyer Protection programme.
Watch out for spelling and grammar mistakes
Legitimate booking sites will have the professionalism and accuracy to ensure the text and imagery on their websites are correct.
If a website is poorly written and contains numerous spelling or grammatical mistakes, it could indicate that the seller is not genuine.
Other red flags may include low-quality images and the inability to leave reviews.
Look for a phone number and a registered address
The majority of legitimate travel booking sites will have a contact number and an address visible in either the header or footer of their website.
If you aren’t 100% sure whether a website is genuine, copy and paste its address and phone number into a Google search engine, to see if its details are verifiable.
Fraudsters will either not provide any address or will use a fake one.
Look for independent reviews
Before booking a holiday with an unknown holiday provider, take the time to research reviews. A scam website will likely not include the ability to leave reviews or may contain a small number of fake ones drafted by the scammers.