June 24 2022

Be on guard against summer holiday fraud

SINCE the Platinum Jubilee celebrations that took place in early June, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the brilliant sense of community that surrounded the occasion.

After two uncertain years, the coming together of neighbourhoods and the fantastically-organised street parties highlighted how important community groups are and the impressive amount that they can achieve.

The Jubilee celebrations coincided with Volunteers’ Week. The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner has always depended on the good will of local volunteers who sit on its scrutiny panels. So, I would like to express how grateful I am for the dedication and commitment of our volunteers, who are an essential part of our team.

Whilst celebrating those who continue to make the OPCC a better organisation, I would also like to congratulate Chief Constable Sarah Crew for being awarded the Queen’s Police Medal. She has been recognised for her commitment and dedication to improving the policing response to rape and serious sexual offences (RASSO).

The Chief Constable holds the position of national policing lead for RASSO at the National Police Chief’s Council and has played an instrumental role in providing support for victims and survivors.

Last year, she focused on building her national role launching an evidence-based approach to investigating RASSO offences, called Project Bluestone. This pioneering initiative was developed in collaboration with leading academics and in consultation with partners across the criminal justice system and victim services. Avon and Somerset Police was at the helm of implementing this pilot project, with the outcomes and findings now informing a national change in the policing approach to RASSO offences.

Finally, with the summer holidays fast approaching, I wanted to raise awareness around holiday fraud and urge local people to be mindful and vigilant when booking flights or accommodation online. With many excited to go abroad following the pandemic, criminals are taking the opportunity to exploit holiday-goers for their own financial gain.

Although there are many legitimate booking platforms, some criminals use these sites to defraud victims by advertising counterfeit accommodation. Equally, many are conned by fraudsters impersonating legitimate travel companies, comparison websites and airline websites. In other cases, victims reported responding to an approach or advertisement on social media. 

Victims have reported being contacted by criminals masquerading as airline or flight comparison employees who offer to take them through the booking procedure, taking a payment at the end. Thereafter, the fraudster may cut off contact or provide their victim with false booking information.

Unfortunately, it is not rare for those targeted to only realise that they have been defrauded once they arrive at the airport and are not permitted to check-in.

I must emphasise the importance of conducting thorough research before giving away personal details or handing over money. If a travel deal feels suspicious or too good to be true, trust your instincts. You can visit my website to read the top tips on avoiding holiday fraud and remember, if you do fall victim, always report the crime to Action Fraud.