In the 2022/2023 financial year, there were 6457 reports of holiday fraud, with over £15 million lost – an average of £2372 per victim – and there was over £4.6 million lost just between May and August. From fake bookings to common tourist cons, Wizz Air travel expert Andras Rado reveals the top holiday scams to watch out for this summer, and the safest places to travel to.
Criminals are creating clones of websites like Airbnb and Booking.com and advertising deals and offers on social media. The links, offers, and websites look real, so you think you’re giving your payment details to the legitimate sites. You’ll often receive a confirmation email of your booking, so you won’t suspect anything until you try and check-in for your flight, or even arrive at your hotel, and they have no record of your booking.
Always be careful with links that come from social media. The cloned sites will usually be very difficult to detect; there might just be a small change in the URL from the original site that you don’t notice when clicking on a link. Verify the offers you’re seeing are correct by manually typing in the legitimate websites address and going through there.
Intercepting Twitter complaints
People often tweet companies with complaints about things like lost luggage, and criminals have started to use this to scam people. Using fake customer service Twitter handles, they respond to complaints asking for contact details, and claim that they need to pay for their lost luggage to be sent to them – of course, the luggage never arrives, and they may even ask for more money, claiming that further problems have delayed it.
No airline would ask for money to be sent in order to return lost luggage. Make sure you get in contact with official customer services with complaints, and to report scams like this!
One of the most common places to get conned when travelling is in a taxi, with scammers claiming that the meter is broken and making up a huge figure when you get to your destination, or the meter going up much faster than it should.
They’re assuming that you don’t know how much the ride should actually cost so they can charge you as much as they like, so make sure you ask your hotel or a local for a rough idea of how much you should be paying.
Pickpockets often lurk in areas that have signs warning you of their presence. When you see a sign saying “warning: pickpockets operate in this area”, your first instinct is to pat your pockets that contain your valuables like your phone and wallet to make sure they’re still there – but this shows thieves exactly where to look.
Keep valuables separate from each other so pickpockets can’t get everything in one go and keep bags in front of you rather than behind you. Be especially careful on public transport as it’s very easy for people to grab things and jump off the train before you’ve even noticed anything is missing.
The bracelet scam is common in markets and on beaches, scammers approach tourists and put a friendship bracelet on you, often tied so that the only way they can be remove is by cutting them. They then demand you pay for the item that they’ve given you, whether you want it or not – and not only do you have to give them money for an item you didn’t want, but it can also often be a technique used to pick your pockets while you’re distracted.
Say a firm no if someone tries to give you anything in the street, and never let anyone put a bracelet or necklace on you, no matter how friendly they seem!
Common in highly touristy cities, you’ll be approached by someone, or sometimes a group of people, with a clipboard asking you to sign a petition. They’re betting on you not being fluent in the language, and can keep talking until you agree to sign, without really knowing what it is – but then they ask for a cash donation. They can sometimes be aggressive, demanding that you give them money for their cause, and this can often be a distraction technique to pick your pockets while you’re trying to saying no.
Just keep walking if someone approaches you asking for signatures, be firm and say no, and keep an eye on your belongings!
Safest destinations to avoid tourist scams
It’s not all doom and gloom; there are many destinations that people claim to feel the safest in, such as Malaga, which has recently been ranked as the second safest city in Spain, and a recent study revealed that Budapest, Reykjavik, and Vienna are among the top safest cities in the world, particularly for solo travellers.