Steer Clear Of Holiday Scams
A new scam has been brought to our attention – this time involving Brexit and EHIC.
As we’ve noted previously, European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) may not be valid after Brexit, but this depends entirely on the deal and circumstances under which we leave the EU.
Which? reports that scammers have been trying to convince Brits to buy EHIC from private websites so the cards can supposedly still be used after Brexit, but that sort of guarantee simply isn’t possible.
“There are already many unofficial websites charging people for EHIC cards which UK citizens are currently entitled to get for free as an EEA member,” explains Which?’s website. “If you’re looking to get an EHIC card before you travel this year, visit the official government website or the official NHS website to check if you can still get one and, if you can, to make sure you get one for free.”
As the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) continues to advise, appropriate travel insurance is extremely important. Even if you can use EHIC, it only covers the basics. Travel insurance is your key to getting the help you need when you need it, and without having to pay huge sums up front for emergency care.
This got us thinking about other scams, which seem to increase exponentially over the festive season.
More about Brexit
A lot of Brits are concerned about bookings for Christmas and the new year with Brexit and elections on the horizon. Please be extremely wary of anyone promising to “Brexit-proof” your holiday. They may be able to secure prices for flights and accommodation by booking in advance and taking a full or part payment (as is the case with any booking) but they have no control over passport and entry requirements, currency exchange rates, or new regulations which may come about.
If you’re planning to travel to Europe:
- Your best bet is still to renew your passport well before you’re set to travel, and make sure you have at least 6 months validity from your departure date.
- Check that your travel insurance covers medical treatment comprehensively and be sure to include full details of all medical conditions and medication when you apply for your policy.
- Beware of anyone who says they can insure you “for Brexit”. Nobody knows the full details of our exit yet, so what exactly are they insuring?
Which? also warns consumers about scammers posing as HM Revenue & Customs officials, who ask for payments for a “Brexit-related registration”. “Bogus Brexit investment” and financial services scams have also been reported.
With investments and bank accounts as with holiday bookings, be wary of cold callers and unexpected emails offering huge savings, freebies or financial pay-outs. Never give out your ATM pin code over the phone or on a website, and only provide credit card details if you are sure the provider is valid and secure.
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) reported that scammers and fraudsters stole more than £7 million from British travellers in 2018. Many of those scams were through fake websites and listings for accommodation that didn’t exist. There were some fraudulent travel agents and other “in person” or telephonic schemes too though, so avoiding online bookings isn’t necessarily the answer.
Avoiding Holiday and Shopping Scams
Here are a few tips to protect your holiday bookings and shopping sprees:
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is – there’s no such thing as a free holiday, especially at this time of year!
- Make sure you have all the details in writing before you sign and pay so you know what’s included and what to expect.
- Don’t be pressured into paying to secure a deal if you don’t have all the information yet.
- Don’t make payments by bank transfer – any reputable company will take a debit or credit card.
- If you’re booking through a website such as AirbnB or Booking.com you must pay through that website. If the accommodation provider tries to get you to pay on another platform or by bank transfer, this is a big warning sign!
- If you’re booking a package, e.g. flights and accommodation, check if they have ATOL protection – there should be a logo on the website, and you will get an ATOL certificate.
- Check for reviews of the promised hotel/apartment before paying. Airbnb and similar sites have reviews, but you can also look at one or two other websites such as TripAdvisor, or simply Google the hotel itself. No reviews can be just as bad as a bad review.
- Look after your data! If you’re making a payment online, do so at home or somewhere you know the network is secure. Making payments and providing credit card details when using public WiFi (e.g. in a restaurant) can be dicey.
- Trust your gut. If it looks or feels dodgy, walk away.
Last but not least, here’s what you should look out for when shopping online – for a holiday, Christmas gifts, or anything else:
- Check that you’re on an official website, not a fake or a copy, and that it’s secure for payments.
- Look for clear logos and images that are not blurry or copied.
- If you’re clicking on a website advert or pop-up, pay attention to where it takes you.
- You should always be able to look up the company and find the special offer on their website yourself if it is real, i.e. independently of the advert.
- Check the URL (address bar at the top of the page) – for example, our web pages will always start with ‘https://www.onestop4.co.uk’ and our quoting engine is similar – it starts with https://quote.onestop4.co.uk
- So something like http://onestop4deals.co.uk wouldn’t be our real website, and neither would onestopsfor.co.uk
- If the URL is misspelled or different in some way, it could very well be a fake.
- The start of the URL ‘https’ is important: ‘s’ means secure! Be careful with ‘http://....’ websites, especially if they ask for credit card details.
If you’re ever unsure about making a holiday purchase, it is your right to ask for more details, a telephone number, or documentation, and if it’s legitimate you will always get a copy of the purchase contract – similar to our policy wording. And just like our policy wording, it’s essential that you read your purchase terms and conditions, and know what you’re paying for every time.
Wishing you happy shopping and happy holidays!
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