Holiday scams warning: £12.3m stolen by fraudsters

Action Fraud has revealed thousands of people were hit by holiday scams in 2023. Here's how to protect yourself from fraud.

A woman stands on a beach in a rubber ring (image: Getty Images)
Holiday scams hit thousands of people in 2023, new police figures show (image: Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Holidaymakers have been told to be vigilant when seeking out summer getaway deals after thousands of prospective travellers were hit by fraud in 2023, a new police campaign has warned.

National scams and cyber crime reporting service Action Fraud, which is run by City of London Police, has launched the push after £12.3 million was stolen by fraudsters last year. The average victim lost £1,851 as a result of “increasingly sophisticated” criminal tactics, it said.

In total, there were 6,640 reports of holiday booking-related fraud over the course of 2023. Most of these cases were recorded in July (804) and August (781). It comes after trade body UK Finance revealed overall losses from fraud totalled more than £500 million over the first half of 2023.

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Pauline Smith, the head of Action Fraud, said: “As people think ahead to book their holidays, understandably everyone is increasingly on the lookout for the best deals.

With the cost of living crisis squeezing our finances, it’s easy to forget to stay vigilant against fraudsters offering cheaper deals and great prices that are too good to be true. We want to avoid people losing their hard-earned money and help raise awareness of the signs of holiday fraud.”

Smith advised would-be holidaymakers to research deals and check for official ABTA and ATOL certification before signing up for a deal. You can see whether the package you’re looking at is ATOL-protected by visiting the ‘Check for ATOL’ website.

She was echoed by ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer, who said: “Fraudsters are using increasingly sophisticated methods to target consumers, with a particular focus on destinations and times of year when demand is high and availability limited, as they know people will be looking for good deals.

“Victims will often only find out they have been defrauded just before they are due to travel, or even when they’re in the resort, when it can be very difficult to find a legitimate replacement leading to yet more cost and potential disappointment. One of the simplest ways to protect yourself when booking is to look for a company that is a member of ABTA when booking your holiday.”

How to protect against a holiday scam

As part of its new campaign, Action Fraud has put together a list of seven tips that it says will keep you safe from holiday scams. These are:

  • Research your deal: before committing to your holiday, do a thorough online search to ensure the operator you’re booking with is credible.
  • Pay via a safe method: you can protect yourself by using a credit card for online shopping. Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, you are legally protected if you purchase something for more than £100.
  • Look for official logos: If the website carries ATOL (Air Travel Organiser's Licence) or ABTA (The Travel Association) logos, double-check the operator’s registered with both of them.
  • Protect yourself: Strong passwords and two-step verification are simple methods of stopping criminals from accessing sensitive information. Action Fraud recommends using three random words to create a strong password.  
  • Look out for suspicious messages: If you get an unexpected email or online message offering you an unrealistic-sounding holiday deal, it’s likely to be a scam. Forward the message or a screenshot to so the authorities can protect others against this type of scam.
  • Keep personal information safe: You should only fill in the mandatory details on a website when buying something.
  • Stop and think: Action Fraud says people should be sceptical of unrealistic holiday deals. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. By taking a minute to think about it, you’ll give yourself the best chance of spotting a scam.
Henry Sandercock

Henry Sandercock has spent more than eight years as a journalist covering a wide variety of beats. Having studied for an MA in journalism at the University of Kent, he started his career in the garden of England as a reporter for local TV channel KMTV. 

Henry then worked at the BBC for three years as a radio producer - mostly on BBC Radio 2 with Jeremy Vine, but also on major BBC Radio 4 programmes like The World at One, PM and Broadcasting House. Switching to print media, he covered fresh foods for respected magazine The Grocer for two years. 

After moving to - a national news site run by the publisher of The Scotsman and Yorkshire Post - Henry began reporting on the cost of living crisis, becoming the title’s money editor in early 2023. He covered everything from the energy crisis to scams, and inflation. You will now find him writing for MoneyWeek. Away from work, Henry lives in Edinburgh with his partner and their whippet Whisper.