Booking a holiday is an exciting experience. We research the destination and decide where to go, arrange transport and accommodation, and plan what to do whilst we’re there. Whether you’re exploring an Italian city and eating your body weight in pizza, partying in Ibiza, jetting off to a Caribbean island, or camping with your family, we all look forward to our next adventure. Unfortunately there’s a darker side to booking a holiday.
Earlier this year, Action Fraud reported that holiday booking fraud has risen 20% in the last year, with 5,826 cases reported compared to 4,910 in 2015. £7.2 million was lost on fraudulent airline tickets, online accommodation and timeshares, but this could just be the tip of the iceberg as many people do not come forward and report the fact that they have been defrauded. An estimated 100 people a week are being conned out of thousands of pounds, leaving them with no holiday to show for it, and on average, each victim lost around £1,200. It’s not just financial impact they experience though; 26% of victims said the fraud had a negative impact on their health and well-being too.
But what’s caused the sharp increase in holiday fraud? Cybercriminals are constantly using the latest tactics and always seem to be one step ahead. They now have more technology at their disposal and can easily set up fake websites and post false holiday adverts. People then transfer them money only to find out the holiday never even existed. The evolution of the sharing economy is likely to have also had an impact on the number of fake adverts and fraudulent bookings. Airbnb has roughly 2 million listings, but unfortunately there have been several stories of bookings gone wrong: £4,000 for a fake Sicilian villa and €3,000 to hire a villa in Ibiza that did not exist.
The reports and stories of scams could be why peer to peer property rental is still a fairly niche market. In our own market research, 84% of people are not using platforms like Airbnb to rent out a property. 34% said it’s because they would not feel comfortable in someone else’s home, and 20% said they are worried about scams. The same is true for those renting out their own property. Only 3% of respondents said they are using sharing economy sites to rent out their property to other people. The reasons why so many people are not doing this include concern about damage to their property (38%), they don’t like dealing with strangers (25%) and they’re worried about scams (25%).
It’s difficult to get a true judgement of someone these days. We rely on profile pictures and a description they have written, having to trust that these details are correct. But people need more confidence about who they are interacting with. In fact, Paul Pant of Afford Anything, ran an ‘Airbnb experiment’ reporting on her experience as a host. After having a guest who misbehaved she said, “I’ll approve new guests with caution: I now spend quite a bit of time chatting with them online, getting a better sense of the individual.”
We associate our homes with safety and privacy but renting our homes to a stranger goes against this. Some form of identity verification would gives us the reassurance about who we are letting into our home. They’d be unable to give false names and details so should anything go wrong, you can hold the right person accountable. But asking for copies of their ID documents and having skype calls beforehand do not make sense in today’s digital world. So how could you easily check another person’s identity?
Yoti is a free digital identity app that lets people easily swap personal details with each other. Every account is securely built around a government issued passport or driving licence and personal biometrics – making it impossible to create fake profiles. This means you can be confident that the information shared with you is real. It’s the easiest way to know who you could be letting into your home, and it gives the guest reassurance about whose property they are staying at – creating more trust and giving both people peace of mind.
Sharing economy platforms do give advice to their users to help them stay safe, such as only book and pay through the platform, and chat to the host / guest on the site beforehand to get to know them better. But with holidays scams on the rise, we must take more measures to make sure the bad guys don’t succeed, and you can go on your dream holiday without being scammed.