Watch out for these six holiday scams this summer

Esther Shaw / 27 August 2015 ( 27 June 2017 )

Many people will be heading abroad this summer on holiday. While it's a great time to relax and enjoy a break, it also pays to keep to your wits about you and be aware of these common holiday scams...



Over the summer, thousands of people will go on holiday and have a great time while they're away. But sadly a few people may be taken in by scams while they're abroad. 

The key is to remain vigilant during your trip; this means keeping an eye out for dodgy deals and foreign holiday rip-offs. Here’s our guide to help you avoid falling for a scam while enjoying a break away from the UK.

1. Beware of the 'beachcomber' con

This scam involves a thief watching you while you’re sunbathing, and then seizing the opportunity to swoop in and steal your bags and belongings when you go into the sea for a swim.

The best way to protect yourself is to avoid leaving possessions unattended. You should also make use of hotel safes, as well as secure lockers or cloakrooms. Alternatively, nominate one person to stay with the bags while you go into the water.

Worried about your home while you are away? Read our tips to deter burglars. 

2. Be on your guard for 'the note switch'

This trick has been around for some time, and involves a barman or taxi driver taking a large-denomination note from you, then switching it and showing you a smaller one – claiming you owe them more money.

To reduce the risk of this happening, it is worth going online before you travel to check out the currency notes and coins you will be using so you know what they look like – and what they are worth in pounds and pence.

This will help you make sure you are being given the right amount when you are being given change, and also when exchanging money.

At the same time, you should always carry lots of small notes and coins on you so as not to get caught out by someone claiming they have no change to give you.

3. Don’t fall for the 'distraction dupe'

This common con which catches many people out involves one fraudster getting your attention with a false story or distraction, while their accomplice goes through your bags or pockets.

A good way to protect yourself – and your belongings – is by spreading valuables among several different bags or pockets, and by making use of money belts or 'bum bags'.

In addition, you should try to avoid carrying huge wads of cash around with you while you are out and about.

Travel tips for the over-50s.

4. Keep an eye out for timeshare tricks

Timeshare cons come in all shapes and sizes, from getting you signed up in the first place, to re-sale scams.Holidaymakers are often lured into signing a timeshare – or holiday club – agreement by pushy salesmen who prowl the beach offering unsuspecting tourists the chance to win a free holiday. But in many cases, the holiday never happens, and people are left tied into contracts which they then struggle to escape from.

Increasingly, those trapped in timeshare agreements find they are contacted by dodgy firms which claim they can re-sell the timeshare or win compensation for previous timeshare rescale scams.

But there are many stories of people paying an upfront fee only to find their timeshare isn’t sold, or that they don’t get any compensation.

The key is to remain on your guard at all times, and not to sign up to any scheme unless you are 100% happy you know what you're getting in to.

5. Don’t get sucked in by an airport taxi scam

Many people get caught out by conmen the minute they step out of the airport and into an unofficial taxi. Most unlicensed touts will be driving unmetered cars and charging inflated prices.

The best way to avoid getting ripped off is to only take a cab from an official taxi rank with a registered, licensed and insured cabbie. If possible, you should also try and request a set fare.

6. Don’t get caught out by 'dynamic currency conversion'

If you’re using your credit or debit overseas, some retailers or restaurant owners will give you the option to pay your bill in sterling, rather than the local currency.

This process, known as “dynamic currency conversion” (DCC) may seem like a good idea, as you’ll know exactly how much you will be paying in pounds and pence.

The problem is, it gives the foreign retailer the chance to use a very uncompetitive rate of exchange, and this could see you paying way over the odds.

The simplest way to avoid getting stung is to always insist on paying in the local currency. This will ensure there are no surprise charges on your bill.

Find out about online holiday scams. 

Tips to help you stay safe:

  • Trust your instincts, and don’t take any risks that you wouldn’t take at home.

  • Don’t flaunt the fact you're carrying valuables such as mobile phones and cameras. Consider leaving jewellery at home.

  • Only carry as much money as you need for the day. Leave the rest of your cash – and a card – in the hotel safe.

  • Leave your passport, phone and other expensive gadgets securely in your villa or hotel – preferably in a safe – when you go to the beach.

  • Take photocopies of paperwork, such as your passport, insurance documents and your driving licence, and store these separately from the originals.

  • Ask a tour guide about local scams, or read up online before you go.

  • To report a scam, contact Action Fraud on (0300) 123 2040 or go to ActionFraud.police.uk.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.