A recent report published online revealed that an estimated £7 million a year is stolen in online travel fraud in the United Kingdom. Holiday booking fraud is when consumers hand over their money only to discover the holiday, accommodation or flight they paid for doesn’t exist.
Here are my travel tips for booking holidays online safely.
Research and only use reputable companies
When you’re planning to book your holiday with a company for the first time it is important to do your research. Spend quality time researching the company by searching for their brand names on search engines like Google and Bing.
Browse through a few pages and look for any negative posts on forums and reviews. If you use Facebook or Twitter, then search for what people are saying about the company. It’s also a good idea to see if they are active on these social networks and follow them, ask questions, and see how they respond to other consumers.
What you’re looking for is a common trend of negative reviews and complaints, rather than a one-off negative comment. There are a lot of review sites on the internet, like Reviews.co.uk, Trust Pilot, and Review Centre to help you research the company before you book your holiday.
Companies that are registered with the Association of British Travel Agencies (ABTA) have to abide by their rules and are legitimate businesses. Many travel agencies and tour operators are licensed by ATOL, which means your holiday is financially protected.
If you find these logos on a holiday website then check the company on the ATOL or ABTA website. Don’t assume that since the website displays these logos that they are members. Bear in mind that they’re other associations like Travel Trust Association, who also protect your holiday.
Book with a credit or Visa Debit card
When you book any aspect of your holiday do so with a credit or Visa debit card, why? If the travel company or airline was to go bust (believe me it happens) then you’re financially protected and you’ll be able to claim your money back.
Alternatively, look into making sure your travel insurance covers you for all eventualities and look out for scheduled airline insurance within policies. Being financially protected is important if you book your flights and accommodation separately, and not within a package holiday, booked with a company that has an ATOL licence.
Never pay directly into the companies bank account, western union (or similar service), or a direct bank transfer, as this is just like paying in cash and cannot be easily tracked.
Secure personal data
When you’re entering personal information (i.e. credit card details, addresses) make sure that the browser you are using identifies that it is a secure web page. They’re a few ways to check this: look out for a padlock icon, or, the web address should start with https.
Most of the up-to-date browsers identify that you are on a secure webpage or not. Sadly, the internet is littered with viruses, and malware and websites can be easily infected, so, use a free service like AVG Threat Labs to scan websites, but bear in mind that you cannot beat having up-to-date virus and malware software installed on your computer.
While the majority of companies are genuine, there are some that are fraudulent and only set up to con you out of your hard-earned money. Look out for items of information like their address, then check it on Google Maps, using the street view feature.
Search on the Companies House database if they are a company based in the UK. If the website has a telephone number give it a call and ask questions. Is it a call-centre abroad, do they seem to know what they’re talking about? You’ll discover a lot in a short conversation.
Always go with your gut instinct and remember, if a holiday price looks too good to be true, it probably is. Sometimes, it’s better to pay a little more and book a holiday with a trusted travel brand for your peace of mind. If you know someone who is planning to book their holiday soon please take a moment to share this article with them.