BE ADVISED: Laois people need to be aware of the pitfalls of staycation scams

People need to be vigilant of everything from fake websites to fake social media accounts

Michael McHugh

Reporter:

Michael McHugh

Email:

michael.mchugh@iconicnews.ie

holidays

More than half of us are already planning on heading abroad in 2020

A stern warning for consumers of an increased risk of staycation scams as fraudsters exploit current travel restrictions and the demand for domestic holidays following the latest Government advise to holiday at home, has been issued today.

FraudSMART, the fraud awareness initiative led by Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI), made their comments following the latest research from Fáilte Ireland showing that 60% of people are now planning a break in Ireland in the next six months.

They are urging consumers to take extra caution as they go about booking their holiday and to avoid falling victim to what can be very sophisticated scams that can dupe an unsuspecting person or family. This can, in some cases, put that same family out of pocket, by thousands of euros.

Keith Gross, Head of Financial Crime & Security, BPFI in warning about the risks said: “In light of the recently published Green List and Government advise on non-essential foreign travel and holidaying at home this summer there has been a surge in demand for ‘staycation’ holidays as people opt to stay in Ireland. We know that in June alone the number of people searching for holiday homes around the country was up 112% on the same time last year*.

“As a result of this pent-up demand, we are warning consumers of an increased risk in holiday purchase scams as fraudsters take advantage of this. The types of scams we anticipate include copycat websites offering holiday accommodation which will look almost identical to the legitimate site. We are also warning consumers to be on the lookout for fake emails and ads on social media offering holiday deals which appear to be offering bargain prices but are in reality too good to true.

“Today we are warning consumers to take extra caution when they are booking domestic holidays and are outlining the key advice holidaymakers should follow to avoid getting caught out and risk loosing their hard earned cash along with their holiday. This include simple checks and tips such as ensuring any website that you use to book a holiday is genuine, never clicking through to a sellers website via an email link or social media advert and never forgetting that if an offer looks too good to be true is usually is.”

Top tips and checks when researching and booking staycation accommodation
* Thoroughly research any on-line offer. Check website/web address is genuine and only purchase through an official website.
Type the URL of the company/seller directly into your browser rather than clicking on it from an e-mail or social media post which could take you to a fraudulent site.
* Avoid cheap on-line deals or ‘super deals’ you’ll find on social media ads. If the price of your holiday is considerably cheaper that the average cost elsewhere you should be suspicious. Remember if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
* Check out whether the website offering the deal has been reviewed online across different trusted sources.
Use a reputable company and make sure the web address for the reputable company is legitimate.
* Independently verify the property if possible by using Google maps/Street view.
* If renting private /self -catering accommodation, call the owner or agent directly to ensure that it is a real listing also look out to see if the company/firm/owner is a member of a recognised travel/accommodation authority
Most listings are genuine and legitimate but watch out for fake listings. Popular and well known holiday booking websites such as Airbnb, booking.com and FiveStar.ie are reliable places to find accommodation.
* Fake Websites and Fake Social Media Accounts – scammers and criminals will use the opportunity of holiday offers and deals to set up fake websites offering cheap on-line deals which are used to obtain your money and personal information. Websites may look like that of a genuine organisation but subtle changes in the web address indicate that it is fraudulent. Beware of lookalike domain spelling errors in emails and websites addressed.
* Be vigilant. Scammers and criminals do contact people by social media scam ads and posts, phishing e-mails, texts and via calls to scam them. The links contained in the posts ultimately take you to fake websites requesting your personal and financial information.
* Be wary of unsolicited promotional emails, pop-ups and other online adverts offering deals or cheap offers. Never click or follow on an embedded link or weblink that arrives in an e-mail. Instead use your browser to find your holiday booking and check their official website
* Warning sign if you are being pressured. You are rushed and pressured into making a decision there and then, ‘last chance to book’ or ‘avoid missing this booking’ is constantly referenced.
As with any on-line offer, pay particular attention to the ‘Terms and Conditions’ (T&C’s) and always read the small print in such offers.
* Be wary of paying a private individual by bank transfer. Paying by direct bank transfer means your money will be difficult to trace in the event of something going wrong and if it is a scam, it will be very difficult to get your money back.
Genuine suppliers/sellers traditionally have a merchant portal.
Further information on holiday scams and other fraud types can be found on the FraudSMART website www.fraudSMART.ie