HSBC issues ‘clone’ travel scam alert and list of cities most at risk

Wakefield has been identified as one of the most at-risk cities after HSBC issued a 'clone' travel scam alert.

HSBC has issued a warning about a rise in travel scams, advising customers to be on the lookout for “clones” of travel expert websites and fraudulent emails.

A substantial £12.3 million was lost last year in the UK to holiday fraud, and while Brits love a bargain especially when it comes to breaks away, it can often enough can lead to becoming a victim of nasty scams.

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In a recent statement, the bank said: “Have you spotted a last-minute holiday deal on social media? Does the travel company only accept payment by bank transfer? Be careful – this could be a scam.

“Fraudsters are creating fake adverts and emails to scam holidaymakers. They often impersonate travel companies to trick people into visiting a bogus website.” The bank added that these websites can look “very convincing”, and some “may even be clones” of real travel companies.

It continued: “Fraudsters may ask you to pay for your holiday by bank transfer – this makes it much harder for you to get your money back.”

The number of people being conned into paying for fake flights and accommodation is high. In 2023, Action Fraud received 6,640 reports of holiday fraud, largely due to more people seeking a cheap holiday deal due to the cost-of-living crisis.

New data collated by expert PayFasto analysed a list of Google searches made by every UK city (scaled to per 100,000 of the population), to determine where is currently seeking a holiday deal the most and is deemed most at risk of holiday scams - and one Yorkshire city ranked in the top 10.

Wakefield came in at ninth on the list, with 5,033 average monthly Google searches for holiday deals. The UK city deemed most likely to be at risk of a scam is Durham with 14,754 average Google searches for holiday deals per month.

The second city most at risk and searching for a bargain is Bolton, with an average of 6,885 holiday deal-related Google searches per month.

The third city most on the lookout for a getaway deal is Warwick, with 6,306 related Google searches, and the fourth is Croydon, with an average of 5,597 deal-related searches per month.

Newcastle upon Tyne places fifth with an average of 5,250 Google searches for bargains per month, and Manchester follows closely behind with 4,713 searches.

Birmingham, Plymouth, Wakefield and Stockport filled the remaining spots on the list.

The ten cities with the most holiday deal Google searches

  1. Durham

  2. Bolton

  3. Warwick

  4. Croydon

  5. Newcastle upon Tyne

  6. Manchester

  7. Birmingham

  8. Plymouth

  9. Wakefield

  10. Stockport

Dennis Pedersen, CEO of PayFasto explained there are several ways that holidaymakers can help protect themselves. He said: “The figures from last year’s holiday fraud reports are shocking. One of the other common ways scammers will try their luck is with payment processing. No reputable travel site should ever ask you to transfer money directly to a bank account - all payments should be handled online securely.

“One way to safely pay online when booking a trip away is to use a credit card. Most major credit card providers protect online purchases and will refund fraudulent transactions in certain circumstances (always check with the card provider).

“Using a credit card also means that if your payment details are stolen, your main current account won’t be affected directly. Other ways to protect your account details online are using Google and Apple Pay and services such as PayPal, as the business then won’t see your details directly.”

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