Beating January blues could cost more than a week in paradise

People are at risk of losing thousands to villa scams, according to new data from Barclays. The data revealed that more than a third of reported villa scams result in losses of over £1,000.

To help holidaymakers stay safe this January, Barclays is issuing a new warning against the dangers of villa scams – where criminals hijack the details of overseas villas, or use fake details to dupe unsuspecting tourists.

Research suggests that all consumers need to take greater care when booking accommodation online to help prevent them from losing their holiday fund. One in seven of those surveyed (14 per cent) admitted they would still book holiday accommodation despite knowing there is a risk of being scammed, and a quarter (26 per cent) would be prepared to put themselves at risk just in the hope of bagging a summer bargain.

Barclays has identified that there are several warning signs people are ignoring when booking their holiday. Research shows that 43 per cent would not hear alarm bells if they were asked to pay for a holiday via bank transfer, and less than half (45 per cent) would check their booking is with a member of a trade body or consumer protection scheme such as the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), leaving them susceptible to less protected companies.

In addition, more than half (55 per cent) would not be put off booking a holiday, even if it seemed ‘too good to be true’.

Ross Martin, Barclays Head of Digital Safety, said: “Trying to escape the January blues may seem like an appealing prospect, but fraudsters are preparing to take advantage of sun-seekers at this time of year. We must all be aware of the risks and make sure we are carrying out proper safety checks to ensure our online security and enjoy a scam-free holiday.”

Barclays top tips for staying safe while booking holidays this January:

  1. Is the offer too good to be true?

Do your research. If a villa is advertised at half the going rate and has great availability in peak season when everywhere else is full, this should tell you something. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is

  1. Do an internet search on the location

If the villa in question appears to be advertised by other companies under another name, this may also be a warning sign. Be sure to do thorough research before making any booking

  1. Are they asking you to pay by transfer?

Scammers love bank transfers. The money goes straight from your account to theirs and then they take it straight out and it disappears. By the time you realise that something is wrong, they are long gone

  1. Look for companies that have a real location and real phone numbers

Be suspicious of businesses that will only communicate via email and mobile phones. It’s worth checking the address or even looking at the location through an online street map. Make sure you check that the travel agent and website is certified, and that your payment is going to the right people

  1. Before you commit to anything, stop and take time to think

If it is a legitimate company, five minutes isn’t going to make any difference – and it could save you thousands of pounds and untold heartache.

 For more details on how to stay safe, visit

Barclays backs Take Five to Stop Fraud – a national campaign from UK Finance and Government offering straight-forward advice to help everyone prevent financial fraud.