Scammers rain on winter holiday plans: ACCC

Consumer watchdog receives more than 100 travel-related scam complaints so far in 2013

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has warned travellers to watch out for holiday scams including fake rental listings, holiday vouchers and travel website hacks.

According to the consumer watchdog, it has already received more than 100 travel scam complaints in 2013 with more than $250,000 lost to scammers.

ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said that scammers are setting up fake online listings for rental properties.

“With these scams you pay for your accommodation but the property either does not exist or, if it is real, the owner knows nothing about your booking,” she said in a statement.

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The ACCC has also received reports of scammers hacking into holiday rental or travel websites to access email inquiries sent by consumers. The scammer then assumes the identity of the property owner and steers customers into making bogus bookings.

“Our most commonly reported travel scam comes from holidaymakers finding that discount accommodation vouchers they paid for don't arrive, are fakes or simply can't be used as promised,” Rickard said.

For example, 'Claire’ (name has been changed) received an email offering vouchers for a resort in Bali. The deal was for 10 nights at a cost of A$1200.

She paid for the voucher via international funds transfer and booked her flights. When 'Claire’ arrived in Kuta, the hotel had no knowledge of the voucher or her payment.

Rickard provided some tips for travellers to avoid the scammers.

“Before booking your holiday, do your homework by contacting the company directly using details that you have sourced independently through the phone book or an online search. Often scammers have no arrangements with the accommodation providers to offer discount stays,” she said.

Rickard also said that scammers will place ads with legitimate newspaper or online classifieds websites.

“If you receive an email out of the blue from a stranger offering a great holiday deal, delete it and do not click on any links or open attachments.”

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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