Increased spending on domestic and overseas tours makes it favourable for the holiday industry.   However, it is upsetting when holiday fraudsters take advantage of the situation and victimize helpless vacationers.  Holiday scams cause damage to the travel and vacation industry. Action Fraud reports £7.2 million lost with online accommodation, timeshare sales and false airline tickets.  In 2016, the number of documented cases has increased by 20% (from 4,910 to 5, 826).  Authorities believe that there could be more victims who have not come forward, and so the figures refer only to those who have reported their losses.

The Timeshare market remains vulnerable to fraudsters who easily victimize holidaymakers unaware of these scams.  Victims state that the effect of the fraud was immense; it had caused them health issues as well.  For holiday clubs and Timeshare, the sums of money involved are quite higher putting victims at the risk of bankruptcy.  The National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre exposes some of the fraud tactics and posted a public advisory to counter holiday frauds.

Swindlers usually begin capturing the victim’s interest through tempting offers.  Prospects are invited to join a holiday club or timeshare programme to be entitled to a free holiday package.   Some get easily tempted with the offer and sign in without reading the contents of the fine print not knowing that they have to pay a certain amount for it (mandatory payments for hidden fees and taxes).

Offers are usually done through phone calling, marketing emails, and text messages containing communication that the prospect has ‘won a free holiday package’.  Prospects are usually invited to watch a video presentation or given a brochure and then convinced into signing. Other opportune moments include offering holiday programmes to vulnerable tourists while they are on a holiday.  Highly targeted market for such activities are individuals aged 20 to late 30s and the older people.

The public is advised not to enter into any timeshare contracts or club membership without verifying important details. One is that the fees required could actually cover the cost of the ‘free holiday’ being offered. Another is that the timeshare property does not really exist.  Before deciding on investment, holidaymakers must be certain of these.  Also, one should be in doubt when the only payment option given is bank transfer.  A payment made would be hard to retrieve once cash has been transferred.

These scams are observed to occur during the summer and December holidays.  It is best to have oneself well informed. Do a thorough research on holiday packages and club memberships before making plans, especially for overseas travel.  Timeshare leads have to watch out for con websites or other social media schemes used in convincing people that the offer is legitimate.  Consumers should not rely on reviews alone and try to check if the company they are dealing with are registered with the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA).

Concerted effort initiated by UK government authorities, ABTA, and other anti-fraud associations are increasing awareness on holiday scams and on the watch for fraudulent transactions.   Legitimate holiday businesses should join forces to expose and to reprimand cons that victimize consumers and devastate the industry.

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