As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, officials are warning the public to be extra vigilant when booking holidays, tickets and insurance as scammers set their sights on targeting new victims.

We are constantly being warned about the latest scams and being careful online, but the pandemic has seen the biggest increase in heartless scammers looking to target people, even in the toughest of times. Since the first lockdown began over a year ago reports of scams have skyrocketed and now just as lockdown restrictions begin to ease, experts are warning we need to be even more vigilant when looking to book anything recreational online.

Lockdown restrictions will ease further from 17 May and we can now book concerts, outside events, sporting venues and some holidays, because of this UK Finance are warning that scammers are preparing for an influx of people wanting to book things up and already have systems in place to start stealing peoples hard earned cash. Earlier in the year UK Finance launched Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign to inform the public about how to protect themselves from online fraud. They say now that restrictions will be lifted, and people will be eager to book holidays and events, criminals are staying one step ahead of the game.

They say criminals are experts in creating false advertisements, building websites that clone trusted organisations and companies such as travel agencies and even use logos from professional bodies like ABTA. They also use a range of tactics to contact victims like social media posts, emails and even telephone calls. UK Finance is urging everyone to familiarise themselves with the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign which they say could stop people from losing their money when booking any upcoming holidays or events.

Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime at UK Finance, told Action Fraud:

“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, do not let criminals take you for a ride. Follow the advice of the take five campaign and 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.” 

When booking anything online it is always important to remain vigilant. Criminals will constantly be looking for new and inventive ways to scam people, take their money and personal information they can sell on to other criminals. By clicking on links through emails you may be directed to a fraudulent website, that looks exactly like one you may have used in the past or even know well. They also do this through social media posts, so it is important you check the URL for any slight changes. Be suspicious of any offers or prices that seem too good to be true, ask yourself why the price is so low and check on multiple sites if anyone else is offering the same deal. Always access a site by typing in the name on the search engine rather than clicking on links, this is the most common way people are led to fraudulent sites and then scammed. Finally, only ever use secure payment methods recommended by reputable companies and never directly transfer money to an individual’s account. This money will be virtually impossible to get back and where possible pay using a credit card if the amount is over £100 and no more than £30,000, this way you are protected under Section 75 of the consumer credit act if the worst were to happen and you lost your money.

Being the victim of a scam can be devastating and often people lose hundreds to thousands of pounds so it pays to take time and do a bit of research before making any payments online or to anything you are not 100% sure about. For more information to help you stay safe online check out UK Finance campaign here: Take Five – To Stop Fraud | To Stop Fraud (takefive-stopfraud.org.uk)

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