What is it?
The current travel restrictions imposed due to coronavirus has left thousands of customers sorting out refunds; with travel firms, airlines, and holiday accommodation. This has led to increases in the purchases of caravans and motorhomes as people opt for staycations. Criminals are using this as an opportunity to trick people into handing over their money or information.
The recent cessations of trading of both Thomas Cook and Flybe led to criminals contacting people by social media scam ads and posts, phishing emails, text and via “spoofed” calls to scam them. The banking and finance industry is taking action on all fronts to protect its customers from fraud and scams and crack down on the criminal gangs responsible, but customers need to play their part and lookout for scams too.
We encourage everyone to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, and take a moment to Stop, Challenge and Protect before parting with your money or information in case it’s a scam.
Caravan/mobile homes – purchase scams
With the possibility of an overseas holiday in the near future if restrictions are lifted, a shift towards staycations has led to people purchasing caravans and motorhomes for use when government guidelines permit. The increase in demand has been exploited by criminals advertising fake listings for caravans and motorhomes on auction sites citing lockdown restrictions as the reason vehicles can’t be viewed in person.
Vehicles are advertised at attractive prices to tempt people into believing they’re getting a good deal, when in reality they simply don’t exist or don’t arrive once paid for. Payments are usually requested via bank transfer as opposed to using a recommended secure payment method. However, recently criminals are requesting the buyer pays using PayPal. The criminal then fails to send a PayPal invoice, at which point the buyer is contacted by someone pretending to be a representative from PayPal and receives a reference and bank account number for payment to be made into. Ultimately, the buyer doesn’t receive their goods as payment has been made into an account controlled by a criminal so customers should be on the lookout for scams.
Scams on cancellation refunds
Cancellation made by flight operators and travel companies has led to an increase in the number of people seeking refunds. However, this presents further opportunities for criminals to defraud people in a number of ways; including via phishing emails, ‘spoofed’ calls or social media posts/ads.
Criminals send out phishing emails advising people how to claim refunds with links leading to fake websites used to steal personal and financial information or used to infect your device with malware. These emails may appear to be from airlines, banks, travel providers or other trusted organisations using official branding to convince you they’re genuine.
Criminals call you pretending to be representatives/ ’refund agents’ from the impacted organisation or from your bank claiming they can help you get an immediate refund if you provide them with your bank details. You may be asked to pay an upfront fee as payment for handling refund claims. Once your bank details have been shared with the criminal you fail to receive repayment and they have access to your money.
Criminals can create fake social media accounts imitating that of the real organisation, often claiming to assist with refunds. The links contained in the posts ultimately take you to fake websites requesting your personal and financial information. However, once entered you fail to receive any repayment.
Scams on new holiday bookings
With airlines expected to resume flights and travel companies offering discounted prices to encourage demand, criminals will use this as an opportunity to set up fake websites offering ‘cheap travel deals’ which are used to obtain your money and information. Websites may look like that of the genuine organisation but subtle changes in the URL indicate that it’s fraudulent. You may also be directed away from secure payment channels to ‘avoid missing a booking’ to pay via bank transfer or through fake payment pages. The tickets advertised may be fake or not exist.
Phishing emails may also be sent advertising “too good to be true” offers or prices for package holidays or flights. When the link contained is clicked, you’re directed to a fake website designed to obtain your personal and financial information.
Criminals can expertly design websites that seem professional and convincing, using images of luxury villas and apartments that don’t exist to convince you they’re trusted and genuine. These are offered for rent, often at discounted prices and require a deposit to be made which is never returned.
If you believe you’ve fallen for a scam contact your bank immediately on a number you know to be correct, such as the one listed on your statement, their website or on the back of your credit or debit card and report it to Action Fraud.