Holiday booking scams and the red flags to avoid (2024)

You've been looking forward to your trip for months, but as you're waiting at the airport you discover - to much frustration - that your flight has been cancelled.

Damn! Better go on to social media to tweet the company - you're hoping it might get their attention quicker than waiting on hold for an agent or in a long queue at the airport with hundreds of other passengers.

Within a short while, you have a reply - finally some good news!

The airline asks you to DM them, and after some back and forth they're willing to book you on to another flight. They'll need your payment details again, though.

Little did you realise, this was a tricky-to-spot scam. In your weariness you hadn't realised you were talking to a fake social media profile posing as your chosen airline.

This is one common holiday booking scam that has been tricking people out of their cash online.

In a report this year, Lloyds revealed holiday purchase scams have risen by 7% over the past year, with nearly half starting on Facebook.

The scams to watch out for

  • Clone websites - these can appear for airlines, holidays, villas and more. Although you may think you're on a legitimate site, you may not have spotted the URL has been changed. You may even get fake confirmation emails or booking references.
  • Social media promotions - similar to the clone websites, these can often impersonate airlines or hotels, or they may advertise accommodation that doesn't exist.
  • Fake activities - when travellers end up paying for activities from fraudulent operators and the tour or activity does not exist.
  • Phishing emails - these can appear to come from a legitimate provider and will often ask travellers to confirm their personal and payment details.
  • Fake social media messages (as we mentioned above) - after passengers reach out for help on social media, scammers might reply posing as the airline or tour operator.
  • Service fees for documents - a long-running scam sees copycat websites pop up where a fee is charged to process or renew a document or health insurance card.
  • Airport parking - some scammers will claim to have a "safe place" for your car but that might not be the case, with some drivers returning to find their cars filthy, damaged or with added mileage.
  • Counterfeit Atol numbers - while the Atol sign should mean your holiday is protected, scammers can use counterfeit numbers on fake web pages.

How can you avoid getting scammed?

Consumer champion Jane Hawkes, also known as Lady Janey, says it's important to do your research in the first place.

If the website claims to be part of any official travel body, check this for yourself.

For example, you can check if a company is truly Atol protected here.

Read reviews for the company too - although be aware that some may have fake reviews (these aren't easy to spot, but you should check for things like whether lots of reviews were posted at the same time, if lots of the reviews go over-the-top, and if many use the same phrasing).

You can also do a Google Maps search for the property being advertised.

Holiday booking scams and the red flags to avoid (1)

Check contact details are readily available on websites and that there is a telephone number.

"Many scam sites purposely don't have one," Jane explains.

"If you can't get hold of a company for general enquiries, it'll be a whole lot more difficult if something goes wrong."

Jane also says you should check for red flags such as poor spelling and grammar in adverts, limited-time offers, and the pressure to make decisions on the spot.

She recommends keeping all communication on the official platform, for example, when booking through Airbnb.

"Scammers will try to lure you away in order to gain your personal and banking details. Steer away from any personal correspondence via email, WhatsApp or text," she says.

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When it comes to booking, Jane says to never action a bank transfer or provide your bank details in response to an advert.

She suggests using a credit card if the offer is legitimate - this means you'll benefit from extra cover if anything goes wrong.

Don't agree to PayPal transfers, especially if the transfer is made as "PayPal Friends and Family" as this reduces the protection PayPal can offer.

For the highest level of consumer protection, Jane recommends booking a package holiday with a trusted travel agent.

If you have been the victim of a scam then you should report it to the Financial Conduct Authority, Trading Standards, Police Action Fraud or Citizens Advice Scam Action as appropriate.

Holiday booking scams and the red flags to avoid (2024)


How to avoid scams? ›

Emails from should always come from an address ending in '', regardless of the subdomain (as in An email address like '' is not from and is most certainly malicious. Do not interact with such emails, and instead report them as spam.

How to avoid holiday scams? ›

Be careful how you pay.

Never wire money directly to a seller. Avoid paying for items with pre-paid gift cards. In these scams, a seller will ask you to send them a gift card number and PIN. Instead of using that gift card for your payment, the scammer will steal the funds, and you'll never receive your item.

Are there any scams on Vrbo? ›

Fake platform emails: Some scammers may send fake emails imitating our platform brands asking you to pay for a rental by transfer or credit card outside of the secure payment system. This is definitely a fake email that you should report to us immediately.

Which of the following could be considered mediums used to conduct holiday scams? ›

Scammers send emails (as well as texts and phone calls) claiming to be from companies you know, such as Amazon or Walmart. These messages use social engineering tactics to steal your passwords, personal information, and financial details.

Can you be conned on booking com? ›

Yes it is very possible, If you've fallen victim to a scam don't hesitate to contact Getrecoveryworld com to start reviewing your case as soon as possible and see what further actions he will take to mitigate your losses.

What protection do I get with booking com? ›

Partner Liability Insurance is a programme that protects you against third-party lawsuits or liability claims for bodily injury or property damage incurred during the dates of a reservation made through

What are 3 excuses a scammer uses? ›

Common Red flags

Refusal to meet in person: Scammers will make excuses to avoid video calls or in-person meetings. They often cite work or travel commitments, or family emergencies.

What is the golden rule of avoiding scams? ›

Only give your details to someone you trust. Choose hard-to-crack passwords and regularly change them. Be extra careful with your credit card details: never give out your PIN and always check your bank statements. without opening them.

How to spot holiday scams? ›

Some scammers who have placed fictional accommodation availability on well-known platform may ask you to liaise direct and pay by bank transfer rather than going through the official payment platform. If anyone asks you to do this, you can be fairly sure you are dealing with a criminal.

Is Vrbo safer than Airbnb? ›

Although both VRBO and Airbnb take precautions to guarantee the protection of their visitors, Airbnb poses more potential dangers for guests simply because it allows visitors to remain in shared spaces.

Is booking through Vrbo safe? ›

We adhere to rigorous security and privacy standards backed by best-in-class technology that helps prevent fraud and harassment. Hosts and guests transact securely in the Vrbo marketplace, thanks to Vrbo systems and infrastructure that meet rigorous security requirements to be PCI-DSS compliant.

What are the downsides of Vrbo? ›

There are often hidden fees you'll have to pay to the listing service, in addition to the rental fee to the host. You'll also usually be required to provide a deposit that the host will have access to in the event you damage the rental unit, and there might be separate cleaning fees.

What are common scammer phrases? ›

The Dirty Dozen: "Classic" Scams and Pitches
1.It's your lucky day! You won the foreign lottery!
2.Burn fat while you sleep!!!
3.Free cash grants! Never repay!
4.This free seminar can change your life!
5.Make BIG money working from home!
7 more rows

How to prevent holiday scams? ›

Carefully read reviews, look for security credentials on websites, and research unfamiliar retailers before you take advantage of a discount. Always pay by credit card and keep receipts so you can try to get refunds if there's an issue. Keep an eye out for common scams in your area with the BBB Scam Tracker.

What type of information would a scammer want? ›

Scammers can steal your identity by obtaining your personal financial information online, at the door or over the phone. What they want are account numbers, passwords, Social Security numbers, and other confidential information that they can use to loot your checking account or run up bills on your credit cards.

How do I know if is legit? ›

You can always check who the real sender is in the “From:” field of your email client, or by checking the sender inside the arrowheads (“<,” “>”). Emails from always come from an address ending in “,” regardless of the subdomain (e.g.

Is it safe to book off booking com? ›

All bookings made through are instantly confirmed so you have no extra steps to take on your side. A dedicated team verifies guest reviews, making sure they are legitimate.

How does booking com detect fake reviews? ›

We have people and automated systems that specialise in detecting fake reviews submitted to our Platform. If we find any, we delete them and, if necessary, take action against whoever is responsible.

Does booking com guarantee your reservation? ›

You'll need a valid credit card to guarantee your reservation with most properties. However, we offer a number of hotels that will guarantee your booking without a card.


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