Number of holidaymakers ripped off in scams rises 19% in the last year
Fraudsters are using bogus accommodation sites, hacking into legitimate accounts and posting fake adverts to swindle travellers.
Booking scams affecting holidaymakers rose by almost a fifth last year, new figures reveal.
The number of reported cases was 5,826 in 2016, a rise of 19% on 2015, according to the UK's national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre ActionFraud.
Scams relating to airline tickets were the most common followed by online accommodation bookings and timeshare sales.
Holidaymakers lost a total of £7.2m last year with the average person being fleeced of £1,200.
Of the victims, more than a quarter (26%) said the rip-offs had a significant impact on their health and financial wellbeing and 259 were left needing medical treatment or at risk of going bankrupt.
A campaign has now been launched by Get Safe Online, travel trade organisation Abta and City of London Police to warn of the dangers posed by holiday booking fraud.
Tony Neate, of Get Safe Online, advised: "Always do as much research as you can about the organisation you're booking through, and ensure that they are a reputable travel operator that is a member of a recognised trade body like Abta.
"By booking in haste, you could not only risk losing a huge amount of money, but also disappoint family and friends when it comes to that long-awaited escape."
The limited availability of religious trips and higher prices make them a popular target for conmen.
Bogus accommodation sites, hacking into legitimate accounts and posting fake adverts online are the main methods used by fraudsters.
People are also being ripped off when they book flights and do not receive genuine tickets – flights to Africa and the Indian sub-continent were targeted last year.
The number of holidaymakers being swindled has consistently risen over the last five years, says ActionFraud.
It is believed criminals are exploiting travellers' lack of awareness of the strict regulations in place for UK travel companies.
Because most people pay for their holidays using bank transfer or cash, they have no means of getting their money back.
Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: "Abta is regularly contacted by members of the public who have been caught out by increasingly sophisticated travel-related frauds.
"We know at first-hand that the loss and shock of finding that your flight or holiday accommodation has not been booked can be very significant.
"Follow the tips we have put together in partnership with the City of London Police and Get Safe Online to avoid falling victim and to make sure your hard-earned money goes towards your holiday and not lining the pockets of an unscrupulous crook."