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Don’t be left ‘out at sea’ by holiday scams – Our guide to avoiding scams abroad

A holiday abroad is something to look forward to. Many of us plan our deserved time away meticulously, sometimes many months or even years in advance. It’s our time to get away and leave any daily worries at home, to experience new cultures and get some well-deserved sun, sea and... scams? That’s probably not the word you were expecting, but like any longing for ‘Sangria’, Holiday Scams can leave you high-and-dry, without your spending money and potentially having your dream holiday cut-short.

A report compiled by ABTA-The Travel Association, Action Fraud and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau highlighted that in 2018, over 5,000 people in the UK fell victim to holiday scams, with an estimated total cost of £7m. This report highlighted an increase of £300,000 in the levels of fraud between 2017 and 2018. With increasing amounts being extorted from British holidaymakers, questions must be asked of how these criminals can carry out these blatant acts and get away with it.

At, we believe that knowledge is empowering, and to be forewarned is to be forearmed. In order to help, we have compiled a list of some of the more common holiday scams that people are falling victim to, offering hints and tips to ensure you stay ahead of the scammers.

There are a number of scams that can take place before you even get to the hotel.


At the security gate

security gate

Keep an eye out for those grabbing the ‘wrong’ belongings at security. This can be a two-person operation for the criminals, with one very often going through security in advance and being tipped off by the other than your valuables are on their way through. This gives ample opportunity for valuables and cash to be lifted straight from the tray before you have even walked through the scanner.

“I never even thought about it at the time…I was just full of the joys of getting on the plane and getting away.”

Daniel was looking forward to his first holiday since moving back home from working abroad a few years prior. He had been extra paranoid this time as most of his spending money was in cash in his wallet, and he had checked it a few times in the airport before heading through security. What he did not realise was that two scammers were also watching.

“I didn’t actually notice them at all. It wasn’t until I’d reported the missing money to the security staff in the airport that they told me it looked like a planned operation. I had taken my time going through security and one of the guys had intercepted my belongings before I’d went through. They manage to get four hundred Euros…holiday ruined.” Don’t carry all of your holiday money in cash. Use alternatives such as travel money cards and remember that if you do have to carry cash, be vigilant of who you show it to (even unintentionally). Keep an eye on your belongings going through security, and don’t delay in collecting your things from the conveyor belt once you are through.


In the taxi from the airport


Another common scam can take place on the way to the hotel from the airport and can involve the taxi driver claiming that the hotel you have booked into has closed down for refurbishment, or even ceased trading permanently and taking you, as the unsuspecting traveller, on a wild goose chase. This will often involve incurring additional charges for the taxi journey, sometimes with the driver working in co-operation with the ‘alternative’ hotel to get your emergency cash for themselves. Make sure that you plan your transfer in advance. You can often get this as part of your holiday package. Be prepared! If you are told that there is a problem with your hotel, it’s always best to call the hotel directly or speak with your travel provider to make sure the information you are being provided with is correct.


In the Hotel

Poolside Scammers



These can seem like friendly people, offering you discounted products, day trips, or even jewellery at a fraction of the usual cost. Be aware that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is! Buying counterfeit / discounted products can seem like a great deal at the time, however you do not have the same recourse if the products are faulty, dangerous or harmful. Always make sure that you are buying from reputable suppliers. If you want to go on a daytrip, speak to reception staff in the hotel, or visit the official outlet for the attraction / experience. Always remember that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.


Hotel Room Inspectors

room inspector

If someone calls at your door requesting to inspect the room, it may not be a member of hotel staff. A common scam is carried out when two people, under the guise of being inspectors working for the hotel, call at a room and when they are let in, distract the unsuspecting holidaymaker and steal valuables. If someone knocks at the door, advise that you are going to call reception to double check for security. Any legitimate hotel employees will not have a problem with this and advising of the check should send any scammer running before you even lift the handset.

The list of potential holiday scams is endless, with variations of those discussed in this article being constantly developed. In relation to safety from scams when travelling abroad, the message is threefold:

  • Be Prepared
  • Be Vigilant
  • Be Aware
Last updated: 27 August 2019

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