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January is the tradtional peak booking season in the travel industry and there are some amazing deals to be had but please be careful and look before you leap.  If online is your preferred method of booking holidays and travel, please be wary and make sure you are 100% certain of what you are booking, who you are booking with and if your money is safe.

In recent years there has been a signifcant increase in online fraud within the travel sector with villa, apartment and chalet rental being specifically targeted.  There have been many incidences of false listing appearing, sometimes on reputable sites, where the scammers have copied images of real properties and advertise them never intending to provide you with the acccommodation.

There are a few steps you can take to try and minimise the risk:

  • Thorough research on the property and company marketing it.
  • Ideally look for membership of an approved trade body such as ABTA, TTA or AITO.
  • If you have seen it elsewhere for more money, be wary.
  • Ask for phone numbers and speak to someone, ask questions, ask for recent pictures – just ask.  Genuine owners and agents will not (or at least should not) have a problem answering your queries.
  • Be very wary of direct bank transfers as there is may be no cover for this whereas there may be by using a credit card.
  • If it seems to good to be true, it almost certainly is.
  • Also bear in mind that if booking directly with owners, these properties are unlikely to have been checked by health and safety and this brings into question responsibility if there is an accident or the holiday is not as advertised.
  • Ask about financial protection, ask for receipts and confirmations.
  • Ask your insurers what they cover and what they don’t.

Don’t get me wrong, there are gems to be found and the vast majority of people are honest but just pause before booking, no matter how good the offer.  More information can be found on the ABTA website.(UK)

If you are booking a deal through an agent or a deal site, which there are now many of, you are entitled to know who the operator is.  Certain deal sites purport to be luxury but if you dig deeper you may be surprised by who actually operates the holiday, possibly companies you would not choose to book with directly.   If the package includes flights, it must now be protected by ATOL – ask for the ATOL number of the operator and check it at the CAA website. (UK)

Holiday time is precious, spend yours wisely.

Niall Douglas
Managing Director
Full Circle Travel
22 January 2014