Don’t be caught out on holiday!

If you are planning on going on holiday in the near future, as you unwind and relax and work on topping up your tan, make sure that you don’t be taken for a fool from the variety of scams that have reared its ugly head for many British tourists in recent times. To avoid being put in this distressing situation where many tourists have found themselves losing large sums of money, it is crucial to do your research and be aware of the pitfalls that many have succumbed to.

Scratchcard Scam issues
The Office of Fair Trading, state that every year 400,000 UK tourists fall for holiday club scams and the results are astonishing. The scams are costing UK consumers over £1 billion a year, with an average loss of £3,000 per person. While some of the most popular Spanish resorts might sound appetizing on paper, this is where these bogus companies are operating.

It appears that the conmen are specifically targeting couples, with the tourists being offered a scratchcard which give you a surprise win and to receive your prize you have to listen to a sales presentation to collect the prize. The OFT say that this is when the tourists are led into signing a contract for an ‘exclusive’ holiday club with false claims relating to price, range and quality of holidays available. Despite spending thousands of pounds, tourists find that they have just spent for little more than what you would get at a high street travel agent. So it is critical to identify the genuine holiday clubs from the ‘bogus’ ones, as the official operations will give you time to read the contracts and there will be a cooling off period so you can still get a refund if you change your mind.*

There are various websites that are offering tips on avoiding certain scams.

What about hiring a car?
While using a hired car on holiday might seem innocent enough, the AA have researched 58 operators in five Mediterranean countries and the results show that a third of cars were hired with some damage involved. As tourists are in holiday mode they take whatever they are offered and there have been instances where people have been charged hundreds of Euros for a scratch on the car despite it being there in the first place. Crucially you should check the car for damage with an employee from the car rental company before signing a rental agreement so if there is a mark or scratch, you are not the one that is liable.

Passport and Identity Fraud
If you don’t keep your passport safe on holiday you could be putting yourselves at risk of identity theft which is estimated to cost Britain in excess of £1.7 billion a year and in a surprising piece of investigation carried out by the Identity and Passport Service people take more care of their of their iPods and phones than their passports!

Some tips that can help you avoid losing your passport on holiday as stated on which? include:

  • Before leaving for your holiday take 2 photocopies of your passport. Leave one with a friend or relative and take one with you, keeping the copy separate from the original
  • If your passport is stolen immediately go to the local police and get in contact with your nearest British Consulate.

A dodgy drinking buddy!
This might be the other end of the scale compared to other potential scams but it is a genuine issue that people need to be aware of. In the fashionable beach resorts of Venezuela your pretend buddy gives you some Rohypnol known as burundanga, and as a result of this it means about three hours of stumbling incapacity and during this period of time you are robbed. To avoid finding yourself in this situation ensure that you watch your own drink in the bar and look to use bottled products **

Be protected
To ensure you are protected from unforeseen costs when travelling, make sure you don’t forget your travel insurance. 24/7 Travel Insurance offers covers for under a fiver for individual travellers***

***Premium £4.38 includes Insurance Premium Tax; based on an individual traveller aged under 55 taking out a “Standard” Single Trip policy for 3 days in Europe excluding personal possessions cover and purchased within 14 days of departure date. Cover details and prices are correct at time of going to press (September 2008) and are subject to change.

*Source: The Guardian.co.uk, dated 12th October 2007

** Source The Times.co.uk, dated 3rd February 2008