Holidaymakers have experienced losses upon arrival at their destination to find either their accommodation was not booked or does not exist Reuters

British tourists were conned out of £2.2m last year through fake websites, bogus adverts and other internet scams, according to a new report.

Holidaymakers have experienced substantial losses after making an online booking, only to arrive at their accommodation and find that no booking has been made, or that the resort does not actually exist.

The most common threat is fraudsters who hack into accounts of property owners, accommodation sites or set up their own impressionist sites.

The report, compiled by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, found that average loss was almost £900, but there were significantly higher exceptions, including one victim who lost £62,000 in a timeshare apartment scam.

A majority of those who had been defrauded had paid by making a bank transfer or cash, meaning they had no recourse to get their money back.

Action against holiday frauds

Last year, 1,569 cases of holiday booking fraud were reported to the police's ActionFraud team.

Now the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), City of London Police and the government's Get Safe Online service have teamed up to warn people of the dangers when it comes to booking a getaway over the internet.

Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Clark, head of economic crime at the City of London police, said: "The internet has revolutionised the way we look for and book our holidays.

"The unfortunate reality is that it is also being exploited by fraudsters who use online offers of accommodation and flights that do not exist or promising bookings that are never made to rip off unsuspecting holidaymakers."

High personal impact

The study has revealed that scammers have specifically aimed their efforts at sport and religious holidays due to the limited availability of accommodation which means that prices are generally higher.

Aside from financial loss, the unpleasant experience can have wider implications.

"Holiday fraud is a particularly distressing form of fraud as the loss to the victim is not just financial but it can also have a high emotional impact," said ABTA chief executive, Mark Tanzer.

"Many victims are unable to get away on a long-awaited holiday or visit to loved ones and the financial loss is accompanied by a personal loss.

"'Every year we are contacted by members of the public who have been the victims of fraudsters, the majority through online scams."