There’s a lot of risks to think about and challenges to face in the travel industry in 2021. However, a persistent issue that has permeated the industry since pre-covid and can be even more devastating now, is travel fraud.
It can be off-putting, and instil paranoia, especially with so much on the line for travel of present. But if you are well prepared to spot the signs and know how to find a travel company you can trust; it can be fairly easily evaded and you can still enjoy your holiday.
What is Travel Fraud?
Summarised, travel fraud occurs when the consumer/traveller pays for a travel service only to discover after payment that the service does not exist.
This could happen through any type of travel service, for example:
- Air travel
- Transportation hire
- Guides etc.
With fraud possible in all areas, it’s vital to be able to recognise signs of fraud and know how to find a legitimate service you can trust.
Finding a trust-worthy service to book your holiday through is where you should focus your attention, considering signs of fraudulent sites won’t always be very obvious or clear.
However, if you do come across a place that you suspect of fraud, or have had fraudulent dealings with, it is important to report this. It will not only ensure they don’t get to continue doing what they’re doing, but it’ll help protect future travellers from these encounters. Plus, it can help make people more aware of what to recognise when booking for themselves.
If you do come across fraudulent activity report it to Action Fraud. If you’re uncertain and need advice based signs you’ve noticed or ensuring a site is legitimate, you can also visit Get Safe Online.
How Do I Avoid Travel Fraud?
There are a few ways to approach this, but a lot of the time it’s a matter of being vigilant and doing good research into the bookings, the companies, the legal measures, and the online presence of companies.
In an ideal world, you would have a list of trusted travel agents and service providers that you can go to for everything. Some companies specialise, some give more general services, but you can find a trustworthy service for every aspect of the travel industry.
That is the recommended way to avoid travel fraud, but you’ve got to get to that point first. Keep that in mind when going forward, keep track of the services and companies you’ve used that have provided good service you trust and let them know. Reviews help good companies become great companies and equally, good reviews can help other consumers recognise legitimate companies.
However, if you’re getting started interacting with the travel industry, or you’re still very new, here are a few things to consider.
Find a PTS Member
The easiest way to ensure you’re working with a company you can put your confidence in, is to look for a verified travel service provider.
All PTS members are experienced, honest, and great service providers passionate about the travel industry. In this way, we’ve done the brunt of the work for you. All our members have been approved by us in order to become members and you can rest assured that they’re all legitimate services.
This includes travel agents, tour operators, and suppliers to cover all your bases.
Be Vigilant Online
It’s good to get into observant habits early on. Beyond looking for a PTS logo, there are certain things that you will notice that can help you become more familiar with recognising legitimate services.
For example, if you notice that the domain name keeps changing when you’re navigating the site, that’s a very easy sign that the website isn’t trustworthy.
A lot of things won’t be hard evidence for or against, but don’t forget to trust your instincts. The more you interact with real travel service websites, the more unconsciously familiar you’ll become with the things that are clear signs of their legitimacy.
Just like we mostly know now not to click a random link in a text or blank email, recognising suspicious signs on company websites will become second nature if you keep your eyes open to the little things.
As we mentioned earlier, it’s a good idea to acknowledge when you have enjoyed a company’s service, this goes both ways.
As the consumer, doing your research will lead you to other people’s reviews and comments, as well as the company’s responses to these things.
Put your trust in other consumers. If a company makes you somewhat suspicious, look for information from other that have used their services and see what you think.
Excellent sites to check for reviews are Trust Pilot, Facebook and Google. Just taking five minutes to do this could save you thousands.
Check Their ATOL Number
Like checking for a PTS number, this is one of the more certain ways you can check and get quick gratification on a company’s legitimacy.
Any travel company that deals with flight bookings in a package (and in some cases, individually) will operate under an ATOL. Whether it’s their own ATOL or a franchise ATOL such as PTS members use.
They are legally obliged to provide an ATOL certificate once you have booked, but you can check that even sooner by going to the CAA website and using their ATOL search page, any company that possesses an ATOL will be listed under their ATOL number for you to find.
Protect Your Wallet
Paying into individual accounts is generally advices Companies won’t use personal accounts for paying into, so keep an eye to see if it’s a company account they’re providing, this will ensure the protection of your money.
Another great precaution is to work with companies that use trust accounts. All PTS members will use trust accounts. You’ll always be able to call and ask exactly where your money is if you’re worried about your financial protection.
In this way, booking package holidays will keep your money protected under the Package Travel Regulations or the ATOL Scheme, as opposed to booking services individually.
Don’t Be Shy for Information
There are certain pieces of information that travel companies are obliged to supply under the Package Travel Regulations. Such as, giving you an ATOL certificate when you book flights as part of a package holiday.
So, it’s a good idea to check your rights as a consumer and make sure that you have been provided with all the information you need.
This includes any information that they are obliged to supply upon request. Don’t feel shy to ask for a record of this information so that you can keep track of everything you are entitled to. Then you can put your confidence in your travel business.
Unfortunately, recognising fraudulent companies is not entirely black and white, which is a part of the issue. But being prepared and building up a list of those you can trust will keep you as safe as possible from these activities and allow you to book a holiday with peace of mind.
If you’re still unsure and need assistance finding a trust worthy company to book your holiday with, don’t forget to look for the PTS logo. You can also check out our consumer protection page, or get in contact with one of our lovely staff by calling 0207 190 9988 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org