6 holiday scams to be aware of this summer

Posted May 6th, 2023 by SimpliSafe

Holiday scams to be aware of this summer

Got exciting travel plans ahead? We’re excited for you! No matter how far you are into your planning, there are a few things should look out for, namely, holiday scams.

But why is this? Holidays are obviously something to look forward to, with people looking to get the best deals, packages and the like. Hackers know this and will do whatever it takes to intercept and ruin your holiday for their own gain. Plus, it can also put your home security at risk whilst on your travels. Here are the top holiday scams to be aware of and how to avoid them.

The most common holiday scams

Trying to suss out and avoid scams can feel a lot harder these days, particularly as they become more common and innovative as technology advances. Here are some of the most common scams that crop up when the summer holiday season arises.

1. Passport scam

At the time of writing, passport office workers are on strike for five weeks between the 3rd April to the 5th May 2023 in England, Scotland and Wales. This has, understandably, left many concerned about getting their passports issued or renewed. Scammers have caught on and taken to social media to contact those wanting to fast-track their passport application. 

They’ll pitch fast-tracking applications for a fee, but it’s worth noting that the HM Passport Office is the sole provider of UK passports, and no third party can work on their behalf. By falling victim to the scam, you could part with a processing fee and your financial details which may be of higher value to the fraudster.

2. Holiday refunds

With borders shut during the COVID-19 pandemic, many were seeking refunds on their holidays. This gave hackers inspiration to pose as third-party booking sites, banks and even the airlines themselves to promise customers a ‘refund’. The scam would involve texting or emailing the customer with promises of a full refund on their holiday, along with a link to click on in hopes of coaxing personal information out of the recipient.

The ‘administration fee’, which in some cases is typically paid to process your refund, is requested by fraudsters to get access to your payment details and empty your bank accounts. It’s a truly awful scam that has unfortunately claimed victims, conning people out of thousands of pounds.

3. Flight scams

It’s common to search for terms like “cheap flights to X” to get the best deal. One thing should watch out for when you do this is sites offering much cheaper flights than anywhere else. They’ll often have a flashy website promising you the cheapest of the cheap to entice you into thinking it’s a great deal. This is all disguised as a money laundering scam, as the aim is to illegally obtain funds whilst remaining a concealed source.

If you do book this flight, you may then get a message at a later date detailing that your flight has been cancelled. The details will provide a number to call to pay an administration fee and rebook the flight. This is similar to the refund and passport scams, as they make you pay a small fee with an ulterior motive to obtain your bank details.

How are these flights offered cheaply?

These scams typically involve the fraudster buying lots of airline tickets for resale on sites that “look” professional and legitimate. This could be via their own websites or social media. The same is done via cold calling where you may have entered your details online for a particular flight and then received a call not long after from a “travel company” trying to get you the best deal. No reputable travel company would do this, so nine times out of 10 - this is probably a scam.

4. Social media holiday booking scam

Somewhat similar to flight scams, social media accounts may offer unique stays and deals to you that seem too good to be true. Besides - social media businesses are all the craze these days, so one would think it wouldn’t be too out of the ordinary to see holiday homes or other holiday services advertised on social media.

However, when it comes to a social media holiday booking scam, it differs from a flight scam, as the holidays they advertise don’t exist whatsoever. That’s why fraudsters will try to sell you the dream with the best prices to reel you in. Once you’ve paid the deposit (or full price for the stay), the scammer may deactivate their account and disappear with your hard-earned cash.

5. Holiday home scams

Whilst booking your accommodation, it’s always worth looking at ABTA or Atol protected properties. These protection covers help cover you in certain situations, for example, if a holiday business was to shut down, you should get your money back.

But with a holiday home scam, a fraudster will use fake imagery to entice those looking for budget deals. They’ll take your payment, then like a flight scam, say that the holiday home is unavailable last minute then offer an alternative option for an extra amount of cash.

We advise checking the reviews section of the listing, or if anything looks suspicious or too good to be true. Unfortunately, sites like Airbnb will still host illegitimate listings that can fool holiday goers. 

6. Free holiday scam

If you like to enter competitions online from credible sites, then this is something you should be especially careful with. Scammers may attempt various ways of contacting you to say you’ve won a trip of a lifetime or a ‘free’ holiday. This may be via phone call, email, social media or text. They may even pose as the company you may have genuinely entered a competition for too. This type of scam is aimed to get people excited about a free holiday, but the main thing you can listen out for is, yet again, an administration fee. As we’ve covered already, by parting with your bank details, they can use this for their own financial gain. 

This could be a huge red flag, as legitimate competitions won’t ask for anything like this. Even if it seems real, you should always assume the worst to protect yourself and your finances.

5 tips to avoid falling victim to holiday scams

There are tons of steps you can take to avoid holiday booking scams. Here are a few more tips to consider when booking your summer holiday.

1. Be careful posting travel plans on social media

Posting about travel plans on social media can alert bot accounts that target accounts with particular keywords. These accounts may attempt to contact you through direct messages, tag your name in their content, or follow you (under the guise of an enticing holiday account). Plus, burglars will use social media and look out for things like geo-tagging to see where you are - which is incredibly useful information if they want to know if your home is empty.

If home security is a worry, then consider investing in an intelligent home security package that covers multiple entry points into your home. With SimpliSafe, you can customise your system based on your specific requirements and blindspots, by incorporating devices such as an indoor camera and outdoor camera to watch over your home, along with alarm sensors to keep tabs on who enters your home. 

2. Only make payments on secure websites

If you’re going to make payment on a website, look to see if it has an SSL certificate and ‘https’ at the beginning of the URL (it will usually show a padlock). This is an extra sign that the communication between you and the website is secure. Just bear in mind that SSL certificates don’t necessarily mean the website is authentic, so use common sense to suss out anything that seems off.

3. Research common sites

We advise that you only research and book holidays on credible sites and known brand names. Be sure to look into reviews for these sites too, to suss out any common complaints, the word ‘scam’, and the like. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.

4. Take a closer look

If you’re targeted with an email you deem to be suspicious, be sure to check the sender’s address before you click on it. Protect yourself from email scams even if you have opened an email from what looked like a legitimate source -  if the URL looks unrecognisable, or doesn’t match the brand name of a reputable holiday site, then you shouldn't be opening it.

You may be targeted on social media or text messages too. It’s fairly easy to see a strange link, but you’d be surprised how many fall victim to these scams. If it seems off, follow your gut.

5. Only connect to secure Wi-Fi

Booking a holiday whilst you’re out and about isn’t uncommon these days. But if you do so, you should practice smartphone safety to ensure your data and finances aren’t compromised. Make sure you only connect to secure Wi-Fi hotspots, or better yet, use your mobile data as the information that is sent and received is encrypted. If you cannot use your mobile data - you could consider investing in a VPN to encrypt your data whilst browsing online.

Think your home could benefit from its own security system, especially whilst it’s vacant on your summer holiday? Contact SimpliSafe today and our team will happily assist you in building the best home security system to keep your property safe and sound.