Online fraudsters (Shutterstock: see credit below)
Blog Words : Insider Secrets | 03 May

How to avoid online booking scams

With more people booking their trips on the internet, the number of travel scams has risen dramatically. Make sure you don't get stung.

A recent report by the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) estimated that UK holidaymakers were scammed out of £7m by fraudsters, with £2.2m being lost to online scams. Fraudsters are setting up copy-cat websites, using cyber or typo-squatted domain names with the aim of lining their pockets.

Victims may not discover they have been duped until arriving at the airport or hotel only to find there is no booking. Stuart Fuller from NetNames, an online brand protection company, reveals what you can do to stay safe.

Be aware of the scams

One of the most frequently used and most dangerous ploys of fraudsters is the creation of fake websites. A copycat website will be set up, offering all kinds of all-inclusive services including flights, hotels, transfers and travel insurance. What makes this such a dangerous and common occurrence is that all it takes is relatively rudimentary coding skills and an authentic looking domain name to set up what looks like a credible website.

But it's not just fake websites that consumers should be wary of. Trusted websites such as TripAdvisor can also be plagued by bogus reviews – there is only so much that review sites can do to verify all of the details. (Note from Editor: Wanderlust only works with reputable tour operators. All the companies on the Wanderlust Trip Finder have been verified.)

Exploiting the trust of consumers is a common trick of the online fraudsters, and so consumers should always be vigilant about making a booking based on information they find on a reviewer website.

What you can do

Here are three simple steps that you can take to make sure the cyber criminals don’t ruin your travels:

1. Shop around 

If one particular website, especially one you have never heard of, is offering a deal much lower than the rest then think twice. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is!

2. Use a credit card

Unless you have 100% verified who you are dealing with, do not pay for your holiday by bank transfer, Western Union or cash.  Use your credit or debit card that at least offers a level of consumer protection.

3. Check the website's verified identity

Only use websites that have a verified identity. If you are required to hand over personal details or credit card numbers, check that the website is protected by SSL (look for a green browser bar or the padlock to left of the web address). 

If you really want to be safe, take 30 seconds to check the details of the domain name of the website at www.who.is. When was it registered, for example? If it was only recently, that could indicate an issue. Hidden details should also set alarm bells ringing.

Main image: Online fraudsters (Shutterstock)