Beware online scams, warn police and Northern Ireland hoteliers
The PSNI and Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) have issued a joint plea for holidaymakers to be careful when booking hotel rooms online after a rise in social media 'fake offers'.
Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said there has been a "worrying increase" in the number of holiday scams reported to police.
"People are being duped into booking hotel rooms and apartments that simply do not exist via 'fake' websites and social media posts," he said.
"Northern Ireland has experienced significant growth within the hospitality sector in the last 12 months. Several new hotels have recently opened and there are numerous established hotels already operating. Many people book rooms online and very often they avail of good discounts.
"That said, I would encourage all travellers to be vigilant if and when making an online booking.
"As a rule of thumb, you should read reviews of the hotel or the actual site offering the deal, check the authenticity of the website and if needs be contact the hotel directly to check if they recognise the platform that is offering the room."
NIHF chief executive Janice Gault urged people to carry out basic checks when they book hotel rooms online.
"We have probably all received emails promoting last-minute deals in various hotels," she said.
"However, I would urge people to think twice and do some basic checks and research before committing to a booking. From time to time hotels will run their own promotional offers via their designated social media platforms.
"Such offers tend to be last minute deals for a variety of hotel services including overnight accommodation and are more often than not genuine.
"However, it's worth ringing the hotel and checking directly that the offer you are looking at is legitimate, as we are seeing an increase in the number of 'fake offers' on social media sites."
If in doubt, the public should ring the hotel if they have any concerns around the vendor offering deals for hotels.
Suspicious activity can be reported to Action Fraud via website www.actionfraud.police.uk or by phone on 030 0123 2040, or call police on non-emergency 101.