More than 5,000 people fell victims to holiday booking fraud last year, with losses totalling €8 million, new research suggests.

Travel association ABTA said victims lost an average of €1,580 each, with more than 50% of crimes concerning bogus airline tickets and a quarter related to dodgy villa rentals.

The association said fraudsters were using sophisticated methods to target bargain-hunters looking for good deals.

“This crime causes very real emotional distress,” ABTA boss Mark Tanzer said.

“As victims often find out just before they travel that they have been defrauded, it can be very difficult to obtain a legitimate replacement booking.”

Spain and France were among the destinations most commonly affected.

Top tips to avoid becoming a holiday fraud victim:

° Don’t just rely on one review – do a thorough online search to check
° Check whether the company is a member of a recognised trade body, such as ABTA
° Be wary about paying directly into a private individual’s bank account
° Check if there is a phone number and call it
Source: ABTA, Action Fraud and Get Safe Online

DREAM KILLAS: Website Dream Villas Spain has been linked to four scams in the past month

The news comes after the Olive Press spoke to four Brits who had been defrauded out of villa rentals in Spain.

Petra Deleslie, 42, contacted us after losing €6,000 booking an 18-person villa in Moraira.

The month-long trip was supposed to be a ‘much-needed break’ after Deleslie lost her mother to lung cancer.

“My nephews and nieces were really looking forward to it as they have never been abroad,” Deleslie told the Olive Press.

“I spent two years saving up for this trip, and we just can’t afford to pay for new villa. The kids are devastated.”

Deleslie was alerted to the fraud following Olive Press articles about website Dream Villas Spain, which allegedly copies other websites’ photographs and reviews and pockets punters’ cash.

READ MORE: British families scammed out of thousands from fake holiday rental sites on Spain’s Costa Blanca and Mallorca

The Olive Press helped the family make a police denuncia, after Deleslie said she will lose ‘more than €12,000’ as flights were already booked and her bank were unable to claim their money back.

Another victim told the Olive Press last week she had booked a villa in Marbella as a surprise getaway for four friends and five 18-year-old daughters as a post-A Levels present.

Sarah Adam, based in London, told us she is convinced she has also been scammed.

The company has not responded to email requests for comment.

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