This is the most common holiday scam - and how to avoid it

Holiday scams are on the increase. (Getty)

Brits lost out on around £7 million to holiday and travel related fraud in 2018, an increase from £6.7 million the year before.

Action Fraud, the UK’s fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, revealed that the average amount lost was £1,380 per person.

In addition to the financial cost, victims have also reported the significant emotional impact caused by this crime.

More than half of the scams reported were related to the sale of airline tickets (53%), where scammers sell fake airfares to would-be travellers.

August was the month that saw the largest loss of more than £425,000.

As well as holiday flights, fraudsters particularly target those visiting friends and family market with flights to Africa and the Indian subcontinent dominating the list of affected destinations.

The next most common fraud at 25% related to the sale of accommodation, with a peak in reported losses in October.

Fraudsters are using increasingly sophisticated methods, with very professional and convincing websites offering upmarket villas for rent.

Many properties do actually exist, but are being offered by fraudsters without the legitimate owner’s knowledge.

Spain and France are the two destinations most commonly targeted.

French and Spanish villas are among the most common places to get scammed. (Getty)

Another type of scam is Hajj fraud, where criminals target Muslims booking trips to Mecca.

Reports show that victims can lose anything from £1,000 to £33,000 and between 2013 and 2017, the crimes had a total reported value of £988,743.

Head of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, said: “We all love to go on holiday to relax and spend time with family and friends, however as this year’s statistics show, holidays are also an opportunity for fraudsters to trick you out of your hard-earned money.

“There is a startling emotional impact of falling victim to holiday fraud bringing the feeling of embarrassment and disappointment to those we love, so we want to ensure that people feel better able to protect themselves.

“We know that fraudsters are increasingly using more sophisticated ways to trick their victims, which is why it is important that you do your research when making travel arrangements.

“If you think you have been a victim of fraud, contact Action Fraud.”

Tips to avoid holiday fraud

  • Check the booking agent's web address is legitimate and has not been altered by slight changes to a domain name - such as changing from .co.uk to .org

  • Don't just rely on one review - do a thorough online search to check the company's credentials

  • Check whether the company is a member of a recognised trade body such as Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), and look for their logo

  • Wherever possible, pay by credit card and be cautious about paying directly into a private individual's bank account

  • Examine receipts and invoices as well as terms and conditions. Be very wary of companies that do not provide any

  • If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is

Sources: ABTA, Action Fraud and Get Safe Online