The Chartered Trading Standards Institute has issued a warning to holidaymakers and members of the public to be on high alert against holiday booking and passport scams as the holiday season peaks. Everyone planning to travel soon has been urged to be on the lookout for fraudsters using social media ads and exploiting passport delays.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) is a national not-for-profit established in 1881 which supports the UK’s trading standards profession and works to protect consumers and safeguard honest businesses. CTSI’s members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services to local authorities and businesses. 

Scammers are using increasingly sophisticated and convincing ways to dupe holidaymakers into paying for travel deals that are literally too good to be true. They employ a variety of tactics to trick their victims into handing over money and personal information, including deceptive emails, texts and phone calls as well as social media listings and online adverts.

On social media listings and online ads in particular, these scammers often use very attractive pictures of holiday destinations including, cottages and hotels, accompanied by too-good-to-be-true prices and tempting special offers to trap people in search of a bargain.

By the time holidaymakers realize that the pictures and prices were entirely fabricated, it is too late and the scammers have taken the money and run, leaving victims out of pocket, with no holiday and no means of getting their money back.

In many cases, scammers tell their victims to pay by cash, via bank transfer or through services such as Western Union, which are difficult to trace and non-refundable. Often victims don’t realize they’ve been scammed until they arrive at the airport and find their flight reservation doesn’t exist, or they arrive at a hotel to find there is no record of their booking.

Scammers are also taking advantage of the potential disruption caused by industrial action by UK Passport Office workers, offering fraudulent fast-track services to help holidaymakers beat delays. There have recently been a number of texts and emails offering speedy passport renewals, as well as taking victims’ money, scammers can then use the personal data they harvest to commit identity theft.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute Lead Officer, Katherine Hart, said: “Lots of people are preparing to go away at the moment and unfortunately there are a lot of adverts on social media advertising cottages and hotels at home and abroad with incredible pictures and fantastic prices.”

CTSI Chief Executive, John Herriman, said: “As always, scammers are quick to leap on any opportunity to take advantage of uncertainty and upheaval. The exploitation of delays brought about by Passport Office strikes is just the latest example of scammers preying on people’s vulnerability.

“People work hard and save all year round for their holidays and scammers are well aware of this, but they don’t care. We can all fight back though by being alert, by following a few simple guidelines, and spreading the word about the harm these scams can cause.”

CTSI urges the public to constantly, check the URL and security of any website they are booking a holiday through, and always look at independent reviews, not just reviews on a website or advert itself, do your research and contact the owners of a holiday cottage before making a booking, pay using a protected payment method such as a credit card, debit card or PayPal’s Buyer Protection service.

The public is encouraged to join Friends Against Scams, a National Trading Standards initiative aiming to protect and prevent people from becoming scam victims by empowering them to take a stand against scams. 

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