The data revealed there were 4,700 reported cases of holidaymakers being “scammed”f by fraudulent booking sites in 2017 totalling £6.7m, with scam victims typically losing £1,500.
Almost half of the victims said the fraud had a significant impact on their health or financial well-being.
Some 575 people revealed the impact was so severe they had to receive medical treatment or were at risk of bankruptcy.
-The most common scams related to airline tickets and accommodation bookings. Sporting and religious trips are also a popular target for scammers due to the limited number of tickets and subsequent higher prices.
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of the Association of British Travel Agents, said: “The cost to them is not just financial. This crime causes very real disappointment and emotional distress.”
Another spike is expected this summer, especially around sporting events like the World Cup, as fraudsters target peak holiday periods when it is harder for prospective tourists to find bargains.
They catch people out through what Action Fraud have warned are “increasingly sophisticated tricks”, including setting up fake websites, hacking into legitimate accounts, and posting bogus adverts online.
Sporting events like this summer’s World Cup are expected to be a target
Tony Neate, from Get Safe Online, advised: “It can be quite tempting to get lured in by the offer of a cut-price flight or a deal on accommodation when you are caught up in the excitement of booking a holiday. “Small steps can stop you getting caught out by a holiday scam, such as researching the company you are booking through, especially ones that aren’t mainstream operators.
“Check well known review sites too so you can see what previous customers’ experiences have been and, where possible, pay by credit card to get extra protection in case anything does go wrong.”
Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said: ‘The financial and emotional consequences for victims of these fraudsters are devastating. ‘Much more needs to be done to make it harder for criminals to operate on these sites and to shut down fraudulent accounts quickly when they are reported. ‘The rise in travel-related fraud also shows how vital it is for the banking industry to introduce a scheme to reimburse people who fall victim to these scams through no fault of their own.’