Be aware of ticket and holiday scams say fraud experts as lockdown restrictions ease on May 17
Fraudsters are poised to target the public with ticketing, travel and health insurance scams as we all rush to book much longed-for social activities this summer.
That's the grim warning from the National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Agency and UK Finance, which are urging households to be alert to an increase in scams as lockdown restrictions are eased across the UK again from Monday (May 17).
It is not the first time fraudsters have attempted to exploit the pandemic to launch schemes that con people out of both their personal details and money.
Delivery companies have been issuing their own warnings in recent weeks about fake delivery scam texts and emails as customers continue to rely on online shopping.
And with many more people now expected to begin handing over money for holidays, concert tickets, days out and summer festivals - criminals, say experts, also see opportunities to profit.
Earlier this year the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau said it was already beginning to receive early reports of non-existent tickets being advertised for sale online, some at inflated prices, for events which are already sold out. In February, Action Fraud said it had received 216 reports of ticket fraud - a 62% increase on January and the highest number of reports since March last year when lockdown was first implemented.
In February alone victims reported losing £272,300 – an average loss of just over £1,260 per victim - a problem which may only get worse as the loosening of lockdown leads to more people making plans to get out and about.
In some instances, says banking and financial services trade association UK Finance, criminals are attempting to charge people for the new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which is available free of charge, or advertising fake ‘vaccine certificates’ despite government confirmation that people's vaccine status will be available free of charge to them via the NHS app from next week should travel come to require it.
Scam emails, telephone calls, fake websites and perhaps most importantly - posts on social media - all risk drawing people in to hand over cash for goods and services that in reality don't exist.
Anyone making a booking for anything this summer is asked to heed the advice included in the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, which reminds people to take a moment and think before parting with hard earned cash or information incase it is a scam.
*Checking for subtle changes in URLs which might suggest criminals have set up a fake website offering great travel deals to obtain your money and information.
* Being suspicious of 'too good to be true' offers or prices
* Booking directly where possible or through an established travel agent and be wary of people claiming to be the private owners of holiday properties unless you can verify their existence with local tourist information desks or reputable holiday let websites
* Don't click through unsolicited emails or social media posts
*Use secure payment options, don't accept requests to move money via bank transfer and where possible use a credit card when booking items over the value of £100 up to £30,0000 for protection under Section 75 of the Credit Consumer Act.
Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime at UK Finance, said: "Criminals have been capitalising on the pandemic to commit fraud, and the easing of lockdown restrictions provides another opportunity for them to target victims.
“As you start booking holidays and planning social activities, don’t let criminals take you for a ride.
"Always visit websites you’re buying from by typing it in to the web browser - avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails or text messages, be wary of any requests to pay by bank transfer when buying or booking services online, and instead use a credit card or the secure payment options recommended by reputable websites.”