Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

26 Oct, 2014

Australian consumer watchdog group warning on how to avoid booking a scammer’s holiday

Canberra, 17 October 2014 – The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is warning consumers to watch out for travel scams.

The ACCC has received 1,650 complaints about travel scams this year, with $100,000 reported lost. Most complainants were contacted by phone and many were offered holiday vouchers for $2,000 or $3,000. Others were sold fake trips to Florida or the Bahamas including tickets to theme parks or cruises at greatly discounted rates.

“While you are making plans for a hard-earned break, scammers are plotting to steal your hard-earned dollars,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard warned.

Simply searching online for a holiday can alert scammers that you are a potential target and they won’t hesitate to approach you with travel vouchers or offers that always turn out to be too good to be true.

“Watch out for these fraudsters cold calling and announcing that you’ve won a travel prize, ranging from discount accommodation vouchers to whole holiday packages. To redeem the prize, you will be asked to provide personal information such as your credit card and drivers’ licence details before they can send it to you,” Ms Rickard said.

“Sometimes scammers will provide authentic-looking tickets and itineraries but when it comes time to travel, these documents are useless and the business cannot be contacted.”

Scammers have also recently been targeting homes and businesses with a fraudulent phone message from QANTAS or Virgin, which claims they have won a ‘travel prize’ or ‘credit points’ – typically $999 – towards their next holiday. In order to redeem the credit, you have to answer several questions, including handing over credit card details so that the ‘prize’ can be processed.

Further information on travel scams is available on the SCAMwatch (link is external) website.

Protect yourself

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is: Many scams will promote “free”, “complimentary” and “discounted” deals that may sound so appealing that they are hard to resist. Find out if the offer is the real deal – call the holiday accommodation provider directly, research the ‘business’ that you’re dealing with, and search online for reviews.
  • Know who you’re dealing with: If you have doubts about the identity of any caller who claims to represent a business, organisation or government department, contact the body directly. Don’t rely on contact details provided by the person – find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search.
  • Book through an accredited agent: If you are looking to go on a holiday, you can use a travel agent to make sure you get legitimate accommodation. If using a travel agent, find out if they are accredited through the Australian Federation of Travel Agents’ ATAS scheme. ATAS-accredited agents must abide by a code of conduct and have dispute resolution procedures in place.
  • The way you pay matters: Different means of payment offer different protections. Be wary of requests for cheques, bank or wire transfers when booking travel. If booking online, choose secure payment methods. If you pay with a credit card, you may be able to seek a chargeback if you don’t get what you pay for.
  • If you think you’ve been scammed, report it: If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.