The travel industry is bracing itself for a surge in peak season internet and telephone payments fraud, industry watchdogs warn.
The threats are arising partly because fraudsters are finding the security of face-to-face chip-and-pin card retail transactions too hard to breach and are migrating instead to industries that sell high-value products over the phone and internet.Apacs, a finance industry body, estimates that “card not present” frauds against the travel industry rose from £27m in the UK in 2007 to £29m last year, making it the third most defrauded of the industries that it monitors.
Law enforcement agencies have been also paying growing attention to travel, with Scotland Yard closely involved in the Profit initiative and the police working with Abta on investigating fraud.
Airlines and travel agent groups said the sector is a target as it tries to boost flagging sales but lacks the safeguard of chip-and-pin transaction security.
Barry Gooch, chair of Profit, a grouping of companies, regulators and law enforcement agencies set up this year, said fraud was “on the rise” during the downturn.
“I don’t want to give the impression that the travel industry is careless,” he told the Financial Times. “The problem is that this year - because it has been very tough - people are less guarded.”
Both Profit and Abta have warned members of potential fraudulent activity during a summer season that is seen as a likely peak for legitimate bookings and fraud attempts.
Kevin Smith, a senior vice-president for Visa Europe, said there had been a “significant increase” in fraudulent activity against airlines due to the number of intermediaries involved in a transaction.
He said: “The airline industry is a very, very complex industry, with many, many layers and transaction processors.”
Last month 13 people were charged in Maidstone crown court with an alleged conspiracy to con Thomas Cook out of £235,000 by using compromised credit cards to book holidays to Jamaica.