Holiday Fraud - Get Safe Online Campaign

When using the internet to research or book your holiday or other travel arrangements, the world is literally at your fingertips. However, there are risks associated with doing so – some specific to holiday and travel booking and some which are in common with other types of online purchases.

  • Fraud resulting from making payments over unsecured web pages. 
  • Flight scams:
    • Where you book a flight and receive a fake ticket, or pay for a ticket that never arrives.
    • Holiday scams:
  • Fake websites and email offers for holidays or villas that do not exist. They require you to pay a deposit, which you never see again.
    • Fake competition scams defrauding you out of a fee to secure a holiday.
  • Inadvertently advertising the fact that your house will be empty when you are away, by posting on social networking or travel tracking sites. Some insurance companies are now rejecting claims if homes are targeted by burglars while the owners are away on holiday and made reference to it on social networking sites.

Safe Booking

  • Ensure that any holiday or travel company unfamiliar to you is reputable by researching them online. Ensure that they are a member of a recognised travel authority which offers financial protection and a complaints service.  
  • When possible, pay for holidays and travel using your credit card as this offers additional financial protection over other methods. Please note that your holiday or travel company may levy a surcharge for credit card payments. 
  • Double check all details such as travel dates, itineraries, destinations and travellers before confirming payment, as you may be charged for amendments.
  • Take out travel insurance adequate for your destination, activities and everyone in your party. 
  • Do not reply to unsolicited emails from companies you don’t recognise. 
  • If renting a private apartment or villa, call the owner/agent directly to ensure that it is legitimate. If the number is not provided, email and request it. Check reviews on TripAdvisor or similar sites. 
  • Get the full address of the property and find it on Google maps to check its location and legitimacy. 
  • Prior to payment, obtain a contract setting out terms and conditions of the rental, deposits, payment terms etc.
  • Before entering payment card details on a website, ensure that the link is secure, in three ways:
    • There should be a padlock symbol in the browser window frame, which appears when you attempt to log in or register. Be sure that the padlock is not on the page itself ... this will probably indicate a fraudulent site.
    • The web address should begin with ‘https://’. The ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’.
    • If using the latest version of your browser, the address bar or the name of the site owner will turn green. 
  • Some websites will redirect you to a third-party payment service (such as WorldPay). Ensure that these sites are secure before you make your payment.
  • Safeguard and remember the password you have chosen for the extra verification services used on some websites, such as Verified by Visa. 
  • When making a payment to an individual, never transfer the money directly into their bank account but use a secure payment site such as PayPal, where money is transferred between two electronic accounts. 
  • Always log out of sites into which you have logged in or registered details. Simply closing your browser is not enough to ensure privacy.
  • Keep receipts for all online holiday or travel bookings and payments. 
  • Check credit card and bank statements carefully after booking to ensure that the correct amount has been debited, and also that no fraud has taken place as a result of the booking. 
  • Before you post details of your travel dates on social networking or travel tracking sites, ensure that the correct privacy settings are in place.
  • Ensure you have effective and updated antivirus/antispyware software and firewall running before you go online. 

More Information

Please refer to the following websites for more information:

ABTA Association of British Travel Agents

ATOL Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing

AiTO Association of Independent Tour Operators

You can also find essential destination-by-destination travel advice and information on the FCO (Foreign & Commonwealth Office) website.


Posters / Images / Downloads

Please note that the information available in the image is the same as the information (text version) next to it. This image has been made available in order to be printed and displayed for educational and support purposes.

Whatever kind of holiday you're planning, book and pay for it safely

We want you to enjoy your holiday or short break, and not fall victim to a fraudster.

Visit @getsafeonline

Holiday Fraud - Poster

Every year, thousands of people in the UK become victims of holiday fraud - paying for accommodation, flights or entire holidays that simply don't exist.

They fall for fake online advertisements, sales, calls, emails, social media posts and text messages.


  • The accommodation doesn't exist,
  • The accommodation is real, but the person they booked it through has no connection with it,
  • Fight tickets or holidays are non-existent, or haven't been paid for by the fake travel agent or tour operator, even if you've received confirmation. 

Even some accommodation advertised on legitimate websites - whether a villa in the sun, a caravan by the sea or a cottage in the country - is non-existent, or is double-booked.

For example, why is a villa still available at peak season? In may cases, unsuspecting victims actually turn up at their accommodation or the flight check-in desk, only to find that they've been defrauded.

For the fraudsters, it's an easy way to make money. For you, it's heart-breaking as you've lost your holiday and your money. If you've lost your holiday and your money. If you've transferred the payment, banks are not obliged to cover your loss. 

Book and pay for your holiday safely.

Here's how:

  • Conduct thorough enquiries into accommodation, flights or package holidays advertised on private advertisements, to check that they are authentic.
  • Check that accommodation really exists by finding on Google Maps and looking for third-party reviews and recommendations. If you can, call the owner/agent directly. If the number is not provided, email and request it. 
  • Check reviews on TripAdvisor or similar sites.
  • Never pay for accommodation or travel by bank transfer even if you're desperate to get away or how close to your holiday date you're booking.
  • Pay by credit card, there's more chance of getting your money back if something goes wrong. It's worth the additional fee some businesses charge for doing so. 
  • Wherever possible, book through members of trade associations such as ABTA or ATOL, having confirmed their membership on the associations' websites. Note that although accommodation-only products are not covered by trade associations, most are still authentic. 
  • Paying online? Make sure the payment page is secure by making sure the address starts with 'https' ('s' stands for secure) and has a padlock in the browser window frame.
  • Be wary of unusually cheap holidays or unusually high deposits.
  • Always get terms and conditions prior to making any payment.
  • Keep confirmations and payment receipts, and check your bank and payment card statements for irregular entries. 

To get the full picture with free, practical, unbiased advice, visit @getsafeonline

Holiday Fraud Leaflet

Book your holiday safely, and don't become a victim of fraud

Every year, thousands of people in the UK become victims of holiday fraud - paying for accommodation, flights or entire holidays that simply don't exist.

They fall for fake online advertisements, sales calls, emails, social media posts and text messages. 

Even some holidays advertised on legitimate websites are non-existent, or have been fraudulently double-booked.

For the fraudster, it's an easy way to make money. For you, it's heart-breaking as you've lost your money.

And remember if you've transferred the payment, banks are not obliged to cover your loss.

Protect yourself

We've joined forces with ABTA to bring you free, expert advice on how to avoid fraud when booking your holiday or short break. 

Visit for Get Safe Online and ABTA's free, expert advice on safe holiday booking

Holiday Fraud Emailer


Page last reviewed December 2022