Holiday Scams You'll Want to Avoid!

A picture of the main street in the beautiful Scottish town of Pitlochry

Holiday scammers are continually looking for ways to unwittingly steal from you in one way or another, your job is to subconsciously stay one step ahead. Though, knowing who is genuine and who's not is a hard one to work out. These people can pose as funny, charming, helpful and your new best friend. But beware, best not to give anything away.

Below is a list of scams you can avoid when going on holiday, and actually in everyday life. Take just a few moments to read through these tips, which may just save you a small fortune and a lot of greif. Our blog will serve as a good reminder as to how slick these people are and the levels they will drop too.

Holiday Home Rental Scams

Holiday home rental fraud has become so common in recent years. This is largely because there are so many fake holiday homes listed on numerous advertising websites, even the biggest booking platforms are plagued with fake listings! If you've been scammed when booking a holiday home, you probably won't know till it's too late. You book your holiday home, pay the fee and then head off on holiday. You arrive at an address that does not exist or a property not owned by the people that took your money. This is a very common occurrence! Note>

  • Only book a property that has been properly independently verified. 
  • Make sure you have insurance that fully covers you for scams and fraud before you book.
  • Only pay by credit card and never pay by bank transfer. 
The Hotel Scams

Beware of unannounced visits to your hotel room by people posing as hotel members of staff. They could claim to be hotel maintenance staff e.g. checking the smoke detection equipment. If the hotel reception has not alerted you to this staff visit, contact reception to check if this is, in fact, true, PRIOR to letting them into your room. The chances are they will be in to steal from you.

Be on guard when you get a call from someone posing to be from hotel reception asking to reconfirm your credit/debit card details. Do not give out these details over the phone to anyone. Instead, say you will come to reception and speak with them directly. This scam catches guests all the time, but don't let you be the next victim.  

Taxi Scams

When you go on holiday regardless of destination and you know you need to get a private transfer/taxi from the airport/train station, do your homework and find out prior to traveling which companies are registered and reputable and:

  • Make sure the meter is working and has been set to zero before you head off on your journey. If you don't notice, you may end up paying more than necessary
  • Make sure you agree on the price of the journey before setting off including any surcharges etc. Otherwise, you could be out of pocket, especially if the taxi decides to take you on a tour of the city
  • Check out you're route so you don't end up getting taken for a ride, literally, taxi driver bank on the fact you don't know your
Street Game "Find the Pea" Scam

You have more than likely seen the game of hide the pea. This is where someone will have a makeshift table with three cups under which, one will cover the pea. The trickster moves the cups around the table and you have to guess which cup the pea is under. But to have a guess, you have to pay to take a shot at guessing. If you are right (which you never will be, unless they give you a free shot) they tell you they will give you double the money back if you win.

You watch some of the audience members winning (who just happen to be in on the scam) and this encourages you to think it's so simple, I'm having a shot. Then you find you have lost because it's a magic trick. Best just to stand back and watch them. When your standing observing the host at work, look at the other crowd members, there is always a couple looking twitchy and always on the lookout for the street police, they also happen to be the ones that always win when they bet.  

The Gold Ring Scam

The situation opens up with someone close to you in the street picking up a gold ring from the ground and offering it to you for £€20, saying it's real gold and is very valuable! The trick is, of course, it's just cheap rubbish gold plate, so don't be taken in by this scam. Some reading this may think, why would anyone fall for this, but the truth is, they do time and time again.  

Currency Scams

Where ever you go on holiday there are many places that sell the local currency in regulated and unregulated outlets. Things to keep your eye on are:

  • Try and always use a regulated currency exchange bureau, you have less chance of being ripped off
  • Check that the commission rate is standard and not more than 4/5%
  • Shop about if you have a large amount of money to change to get the best rate otherwise you could be paying a lot more
  • Don't allow yourself to be distracted during the transaction and always recount each note in front of the person who serves you, it could cost you dearly if you don't. It's not uncommon for mistakes to be made, especially if the seller knows your not watching 
Excursion Scams

Going somewhere new on holiday brings out the adventurist side in many people. Location tours and excursions are normally the best way to find out about a region or country you are visiting. 

  • Book tours and excursions with reputable companies and where possible do a bit of research in advance of traveling somewhere new, as this can often save you a lot of time and money.
  • If you are booking online, make sure the company has been trading for a period of time and has the credentials of a good tour firm. Many review sites will back them up if they are good.
  • Check the local tourism office as they may well have good deals with local tour companies, and it is more likely the tourism office will have vetted them. 
  • Beware of the unlicensed touts on the street who are here today but gone tomorrow. But if you do make a booking with a street tour tout, do not give out your payment card details and hold off paying for the tour till you are on the tour.
Credit Card Fraud

Credit card fraud has become commonplace in modern-day, but we never think it will happen to us. Be extra careful when using your credit card to make payments or to withdraw money from an atm, whether it's home or away!

  • Always check the amount you are paying before entering your pin number and check your balance when you make payments to ensure you have not been overcharged for goods or that a scam has taken place. 
  • Always check your statements and challenge any payments you are not sure of with your card provider.
  • If you think a purchase is too good to be true, it probably is, best save your time, money, and a whole lot of grief by not making the transaction.
Ticket Fraud

Buying tickets for a plane journey, a tour, excursion or even a concert should be done through respective the originating company or licensed agents to ensure you don't get ripped off.

Levels of fraud have never been higher and it's hard to detect a good purchase from a bad one. Fraudsters have become so sophisticated with modern copy technology making it very hard to detect phony tickets from the real deal.

For most, they won't receive the promised tickets that in some cases cost £000s if not £0,000s of pounds. If you are lucky, you will receive a confirmation email from the scammer. In the likely event, you are sent tickets, they will look real to you, but just wait till you try and use them. Best to be wise!

Car Hire Scams

Booking car hire is a fairly simple process and with so much competition it's often cheaper to book car hire than pay for local transfers from ports to destinations - or is it?

There are a number of things to remember when booking car hire:

  • Check the fuel policy before booking on the hire or broker's site. Often it's better to book on a full to full basis - You take the car out full of fuel and you bring it back full. It's not uncommon for hire companies to charge for the fuel and refund this back when the car is returned full. 
  • Booking car hire only becomes a headache once you go to collect the car. This is where you get bombarded with all the reasons to buy all the local insurances offered by the car hire company. But you don't have to buy them as there are other cost-effective options! Most car hire agreements come with collision damage waiver, theft waiver and liability insurance, but they have hefty excesses. If you book car hire via a broker like e.g. "" and take out their refundable excess cover, you don't have to worry about taking the car hire companies extra insurance cover. If you don't take the refundable excess cover and have a crash, you will have to pay some or all the excess cover to the car hire company. If you regularly hire cars, you can buy an annual "car hire excess" policy which covers all your excesses and costs around £40. If you do buy an annual policy, make sure it has breakdown towing cover, as this is not always included in the car hire agreement. The car hire companies' insurances can add hundreds of pounds to the cost of your booking if you decide to take them, as this is their way of making money. They will give you the hard sell, so be prepared.
  • If you need to top up the fuel in your hired car before returning the car to the hire firm, try to do this from a non-motorway filling station or ones near the airport as they tend to be very very expensive.
    The decision is yours at the end of the day!  
The Fake Holiday Company Scams

There are many travel companies offering great deals, in fact, some too good to be true, more often they are because they are scams. You have to take extra care not to be scammed by these wizards who copy or clone other big well-known travel company offers and websites. 

Always do your homework before booking a holiday or buying a product from an online holiday company, especially if they are cold calling you. Check their online presence and credentials, check to see if they are registered with ABTA and have an ATOL license. Don't always assume that the number they have given to you to call them back on is a legitimate company. These people are very sophisticated, get advice before making any decisions and making any payments.

In all circumstances, if you are unsure and suspicious, it's always best to seek advice.

Never make bank transfer payments, as there is no trace if a problem later occurs and never give your credit card details out!  

If you become a victim of a scam or fraud, report it immediately to Action Fraud 0330-123-2040 and they will take the case forward. The Action Fraud website is where we have resourced some of the details listed above. You can use it as a great hub of information to ensure you don't fall victim to fraud.

Please share this article with friends and family, especially those most vulnerable, and let's help each other to avoid these pitfalls......... 

(Photo by Artem Bali on Unsplash)


NOTE - Information contained in this article was accurate at the time of publishing and should be used for guidance only. Whilst we make every effort to keep our information up to date, public information is constantly changing and therefore, no responsibility will be accepted if this information becomes out of date or which warrants this information to be inaccurate.


(This article was first published in April 2019. Updated July 2020. Updated Sept 2021.)

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