Scammers Ready To Steal Your Holiday
You are planning a holiday overseas. You search the internet and see a great hotel deal. It’s far cheaper than the rest. The pictures look great. You can see yourself luxuriating in that huge bed and diving into the beautiful blue pool.
So you send your money to the account given on the website. You fly and take a taxi to the hotel looking forward to relaxing in your lovely room and the pool.
But they’ve never heard of you. They never got your money. You’ve been scammed. Your Internet communications were hijacked by tech-savvy crooks who set up realistic looking websites and ‘phish’ to hook people just like you.
The one bit of good news is that you shouldn’t feel silly. You are not alone. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission warns scammers are getting better and better at hacking into travel websites and diverting people booking holidays to their own shonky bank accounts. They also set up realistic looking but fake online listings for hotels and rental properties.
The ACCC received more than 100 travel-related scam complaints in the first four months of 2013. More than a quarter of a million dollars has been pinched by the scammers.
One of the most common scams is to sell discount vouchers that turn out to be worthless when you present them to the hotel.
John Schmidt, CEO of AUSTRAC – Australia’s financial intelligence authority – told the ABC some victims have been hit twice – once when they lose their holiday money in the scam, then again when a person claiming to be a lawyer or foreign police officer contacts them to say they are part of a team trying to recover the lost funds. Guess what – all you have to do is pay them money to join the operation against the scammers. Naturally, it turns out they are part of the scam too.
But there are genuine moves to take legal action to recover lost holiday money – not from the scammers themselves, but from a London based bank used by the crooks to receive money from their victims. Millions of dollars from victims around the world are reported to have been funneled through accounts at the bank.
But to succeed any legal action would have to prove the bank was negligent in its legal requirements in vetting the identity of account holders. Even then, there would have to be signs of fraud that the bank would have been reasonably expected under banking regulations to have picked up. It’s a very long shot.