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Consumers targeted by online travel scams

09 July 2010 - 12:32 by Simon Crisp

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Consumers looking for cheap holidays online over the summer are exposed to an increased risk of becoming victims of identity theft and fraud, according to security experts.

A third of all people shopping online to plan their travel arrangements will pass on financial information to make payments before authenticating the security and reputation of the firms with which they are booking, according to travel group ABTA.

In a survey it was discovered that many UK consumers are ignorant as to the tricks commonly employed by criminals to steal funds and cause mayhem for prospective holidaymakers. 68 per cent of respondents said that they did not know that phony websites can be set up to lure in unsuspecting shoppers looking for a bargain in the travel market.

Over 20 per cent of those questioned said that emails supposedly advertising holiday packages or rental offers had been received from unknown sources, highlighting the way in which spam campaigns can effectively target trends based on the season.

The minister for security said that although there was plenty of opportunity to carry out safe shopping online when looking for a holiday deal, those who rush to grab what appear to be unrepeatable bargains with unknown sites are likely to get stung.

Online shopping expert Tony Neate said that proper research was a prerequisite for safe shopping online, with the best informed consumers prepared to walk away from deals which appear to be too good to be true. Mr. Neate also urged consumers to avoid any individual rental deals which do not provide contact details or respond to messages, as well as those which require up-front payment by cheque, as these are likely to be scam operations.

An ABTA representative said that despite the risks, the internet is a great place to secure a cheap holiday this year, provided that proper precautions are taken. Restraint, combined with basic security measures should protect the consumer.