Money Wellness
Family at airport in black and white, mum on phone
category iconmanaging your money
calendar icon13 Mar 2024

Mum of three scammed out of a family holiday

A mum of three had to cancel a family holiday just hours before they were due to fly to Majorca after learning they had been scammed out of more than £4,000, the Independent reports.

Emma Last thought she’d booked a villa big enough for her husband, three children and her parents last August, but it wasn’t until their flight date that she discovered she’d been scammed, and the villa she thought they were flying to was fully booked.

The property was listed on Airbnb, but when clicking through to book, Emma was taken to WhatsApp to check availability, and after this confirmation she was asked to give her email address, so that they could send booking information and confirm payment.

The link in the email took her to what appeared to be a Booking.com “portal”, and she was offered a 10% discount due to the Genius loyalty programme she was already signed up to. This reassured her that the booking was legitimate.

But just before the family flew, it was discovered that the ‘Travel Villas’ listing had been cloned from another site- Oliver’s Travels.

The family did eventually get the £4000 back from the scam, but not the money for the flights as Emma was told that her insurance policy from Barclays Bank stated ‘the circumstances are not included under any of the specified incidents for which (her) policy would provide cover’.

Airbnb commented: “We encourage and remind users to stay on Airbnb to communicate, book and pay to help ensure they’re protected by our policies, processes and 24/7 support, including AirCover.”

Even though the family did their due diligence, this case shows that fraudsters are becoming more and more inventive, and things like travel insurance may not cover some of these scams.

Emma said that she wants to share her story because she feels there’s not enough financial education around scams like these, and states, “I have worked on my own mental health, and I’ve got all these tools in my kit bag because of the work that I do, but what really worries me is other people … the impact it can have on you, it can be devastating.”

How can I do my due diligence?

Although scams may differ, always pay on trusted sites. If they send you a link to pay elsewhere, don’t trust it- and contact the company you’re booking through to make sure the listing is real.

Learn more about beating scammers.

I've think I've been scammed- what should I do?

If you've been scammed, don't be embarrassed to take action. You may feel feel stupid and angry at yourself for falling into a scam, but fraudsters are becoming inventive, and just like in Emma's story, there were pointers throughout her booking process that made her feel like it was legitimate. Anyone can fall for a scam.

So, what you need to do depends on exactly what’s happened. But the three key things you need to do are:

  • protect yourself from further risk
  • check if you can get your money back
  • report the scam

If you’re in danger

If you feel threatened at any point, report this to the police immediately by calling 999.

If you’ve given the scammer access to your computer

Sometimes scammers ask to access your computer so they can control it remotely e.g. they might pretend to be from your internet provider and say they need to deal with a technical problem.

The scammer might infect your computer with a virus, or steal passwords and/or financial information. If this happens to you:

  • reset passwords
  • let your bank know your financial information might have been stolen
  • make sure you update your anti-virus software

You could also get an IT professional to check your computer.

If you transferred money to the scammer in the last 24 hours

Tell the police immediately by calling 101.

If you think your account details or PIN have been stolen

Contact your bank immediately so they can protect your account.

After you’ve told your bank about the scam, keep an eye on your bank statement and look out for any unusual transactions. Also check your credit report to see if there are any applications for credit you don’t recognise.

If you think your passwords could have been stolen

Change your passwords as soon as possible. If you’ve used the same passwords on any other accounts, you should change these too.

Make sure you create a strong password e.g. using numbers and special characters.

Some sites let you add extra security to your account. This is known as ‘two factor authentication’.

If you think one of your accounts has been hacked

If a scammer has stolen your passwords, they could hack into your email, social media or online bank accounts. If you’re worried about this, you can find out what to do from the National Cyber Security Centre.

Can I get my money back?

If you’ve lost money because of a scam, there might be things you can do to get it back. 

Contact your bank immediately if there’s a payment you don’t recognise – this is known as an ‘unauthorised transaction’, or you’ve used your debit card and more money was taken than you expected.

Explain what’s happened and ask if you can get a refund. If you’re not happy with how the bank deals with your claim, you should make an official complaint to them. Find out how to do this by checking their website.

If it’s eight weeks since you complained, and you haven’t got your money bank, contact the Financial Ombudsman. You can also contact the ombudsman if you’ve had a letter from the bank saying it’s not going to take any action. This is known as a financial response letter.

If the ombudsman decides you’ve been treated unfairly, it’s got legal powers to put things right.

Sadly, not all money lost through scams can be reclaimed. If you’ve been left in debt following a scam, get in touch with us and we’ll help you with free debt advice and support.

Who should I report a scam to?

It’s a good idea to report a scam – even if you’ve got your money back – as it can prevent it happening to someone else.

You can report the scam to Citizens Advice who pass all the information on to Trading Standards and they’ll decide whether to investigate or not. Depending on what they find, they can take legal action against the scammers or stop them operating.

All scams should also be reported to Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud.

Action Fraud can get the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau to investigate scams. They’ll also give you a crime reference number, which can be helpful if you need to tell your bank you’ve been scammed. You can report a scam to Action Fraud at actionfraud.police.uk or call 0300 123 2040

If you receive a scam email, you should forward it to [email protected]. It will go to the National Cyber Security Centre and might stop other people being scammed.

Online scam adverts should be reported to the Advertising Standards Authority. You may also be able to report an advert directly to the platform hosting it e.g. Google, Facebook and Instagram.

Avatar of Lydia Bell-Jones

Lydia Bell-Jones

With a background in banking, Lydia has been writing professionally for over five years. She is passionate about helping people improve their personal finances and has a particular interest in the connection between money and mental health.

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