The scams to avoid when booking a Black Friday holiday deal

black friday travel scams flights hotels booking advice - Getty
black friday travel scams flights hotels booking advice - Getty

It’s a dream scenario – a friend forwards you a WhatsApp message with a link to a British Airways Black Friday flight giveaway. On offer is a free trip to a European destination of your choice. Unfortunately, your prize will not be a winter city break in Rome but more likely a nasty financial hit. Yes, it’s a scam from fraudsters aiming to trick people into sharing personal information.

You might think that only the gullible fall for cyber scams but there is no doubt they are becoming more sophisticated, just as our appetite for cut-price holiday deals is skyrocketing.

In the case of the recent fake ‘BA competition’, the criminals used fairly convincing branding and pitched the prize low – winter flights to Europe are more believable than, say, free long-haul flights for a year. Airlines also regularly run competitions and giveaways, particularly around feverish shopping events such as Black Friday. Psychologically, the fact the message has been sent on by an unsuspecting friend may also lead more consumers to trust its content.

British Airways issued a statement, confirming the giveaway – which has also reportedly affected its sister carrier Iberia – was a fake and the links have since been disabled.

It read: “We are aware of a fraudulent promotion that is being shared via WhatsApp and social media, which has been reported. This message is not from British Airways and we advise anyone who receives it not to click any links and to report it as spam or delete it.”

British Airways flight Black Friday deal travel holiday - Getty
British Airways flight Black Friday deal travel holiday - Getty

Air France has also confirmed it has seen a similar scam flying around, demonstrating it’s no one-off and many more travel fraud attempts are likely to crop up on Black Friday (Nov 25) and Cyber Monday (Nov 28). According to a National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) spokesperson, scams often spike in the run-up to holidays or events and it warns consumers to keep their guard up.

“Cyber criminals will seek to exploit key shopping events like Black Friday to trick people into sharing personal or financial details,” it advises.

“Commonly scams try to prey on emotions and pressure people into acting without thinking, and the NCSC urges the public to familiarise themselves with our advice on how to spot the common signs of a scam ahead of the festive shopping period.

“It is always worth checking an organisation’s website to make sure the offer is genuine, and people should forward any suspicious texts to ‘7726’ or emails to report@phishing.gov.uk.”

So, if you receive a Black Friday or Cyber Monday promotion in the coming days, be sure to double-check details such as the original sender, the company’s URL and do not share any sensitive details. If in doubt, contact the company directly.

What else should travellers be aware of when booking a Black Friday travel offer?

In addition to serious financial scams, holidaymakers should be on guard for bad value or misleading deals during this week’s booking bonanza.

The Civil Aviation Authority has issued a statement ahead of Black Friday urging travellers to check booking conditions closely on any discounted holidays. Among the pitfalls it highlighted are a lack of flexibility, unadvertised extras (such as baggage allowance) and whether the holiday offer is in a foreign currency. If so, the price charged in pounds should be checked to ensure it’s not a bad rate, and whether your bank charges a fee for paying in another currency.

The body also urges holidaymakers to shop around and compare prices and, most importantly, says: “Before booking, you should always check that your travel provider is a legitimate Atol holder and check that the holiday is Atol protected.”

Note that whether a company is Atol-protected can be checked here.

Other holiday scams to look out for

Festive giveaways are not the only way scammers are attempting to exploit holidaymakers. Earlier this year, the Telegraph highlighted the rise in Airbnb fraud. Among the most popular scams are mis-selling a property with fake plush photos and listing a holiday home multiple times at different prices, with a view to cancelling cheaper bookings and maximising profits. There have also been reports of totally fake listings and reviews.

To avoid falling victim to these tricks, try to look up properties on Google Street View before booking and avoid places with few or no reviews. Never arrange to pay Airbnb owners directly – fraudsters have been known to request money from guests with the promise of avoiding the website’s fees but there is never a good reason to swerve its payment system. The company withholds payment until 24 hours after check-in, so there is time to alert Airbnb if something is amiss.

Social media users are often the target of holiday scams, with fake caravan listings particularly prevalent. Holidaymakers are often lured in by low prices and may still be unfamiliar with booking online, or at least rusty post-pandemic.

When avoiding these frauds, the old adage remains true – if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Have you ever been stung by a Black Friday holiday scam? Please share your experience in the comments below