Costa del scam: Beating January blues could cost more than a week in paradise

Sun-deprived Brits on a mission to beat the January blues are at risk of losing thousands to villa scams, according to new data from Barclays. The data revealed that more than one in three (37 per cent) reported villa scams results in losses between £1000 and £5000, with nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) saving on average £1,274 throughout the year for their holiday.

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.

Whether it’s arranging a romantic getaway through a fake travel agent or a booking for your dream villa which turns out to be a non-existent nightmare, sun-seekers are set to be in for WAY more than they bargained for, with unlucky 30-44 year olds making up more than a third (36 per cent) of those affected.

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 (14 per cent) admitted they would still book their dream 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 hope of bagging a summer bargain.

Barclays has identified that there are several warning signs Brits 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*, 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’.

Trying to escape those 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.

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

2) 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

3) 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

4) 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

5) 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