Holiday scammers on the prowl

Published

Officially the most depressing day of the year is fast approaching and Suffolk Trading Standards is warning people to be vigilant when booking a sunny holiday

Trading Standards has recently been made aware of several incidents involving Suffolk residents being misled by websites associated with booking holidays abroad and would like to issue a warning to any sun seekers.

Dubbed by Cardiff University researcher Cliff Arnall as the gloomiest date this year, residents may be drawn to booking holidays online this Monday 16 January.

The European Healthcare Insurance Card (EHIC), which provides reduced cost medical treatment in Europe, is free via the NHS. However, many unscrupulous websites charge unnecessarily for this service and often appear as paid adverts at the top of search engines. These sites will charge an administrative fee to check applications which can be up to £15 per person.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has taken action against a number of online traders who deceptively sold consumers EHICs. As a result of the OFT's investigations, three online traders have pledged not to engage in deceptive selling practices with a forth site being suspended.

People purchasing visas to travel outside Europe can also face unnecessary charges. When travelling to the USA for example, it is now essential to apply for an ETSA visa, which normally costs $14 from the US Department of Homeland Security. However, Trading Standards have found sites that offer the ETSA visa for $39 per application, which is an extra $100 for a family of four.

Councillor Colin Spence, Suffolk County Council’s Portfolio Holder for Public Protection said;

“Due to cold weather, financial worries and post Christmas blues, many people are understandably looking ahead to holidays later in the year.

“We would like to urge people not to get caught out, to do their homework and to check the small print on these websites. If in any doubt, visit the official NHS website or Consumer Direct to find unbiased and accurate information.”

For advice on online scams, contact Consumer Direct by visiting http://www.direct.gov.uk/ or call 08454 040506.