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The Thomas Cook scams exposed

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Thomas Cook

Travel watchdog issues warning over fake refund websites set up in wake of the tour operator’s collapse

In Depth Gabriel Power
Wednesday, October 9, 2019 - 3:44pm

Customers whose travel plans were ruined by the collapse of Thomas Cook are being warned to beware of refund scams by fraudsters trying to cash in on their misery.

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The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says it is taking “urgent action” over suspected “fraudulent activity” that targets people who are trying to get their money back after the 178-year-old tour operator filed for bankruptcy in September.

CAA chief executive Richard Moriarty described the scams as “disgusting and disgraceful”, adding that “unscrupulous criminals are attempting to profit from people who are already experiencing high levels of anxiety and distress”, reports MailOnline’s This is Money website.

“We will not accept this and my team is working around the clock to safeguard our system and process the claims that have already been made,” Moriarty added.

One type of scam uncovered sees people not owed money applying for refunds, the BBC reports. 

The CAA is administering refunds from the Atol travel fund, an insurance levy collected from travel firms, and is due to pay back cash for around 360,000 bookings for trips that were to be taken by a total of 800,000 people.

However, the watchdog was struggling to cope with what officials described as “unprecedented demand​'” after its dedicated Thomas Cook refund website went live at 6am on Monday.

By the following day, around 100,000 applications had been made on the site. But sources close to the regulator estimate that up to 15% of these applications are suspicious, according to This is Money.

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Thomas Cook costumers are also being warned about fake websites - such as ThomasCookrefunds.com - that claim to help disappointed holidaymakers get their money back. Consumer group Which? says these fraudulent sites ask customers to share their contact details and booking references, supposedly to help arrange refunds.

“But Thomas Cook is not providing a refund service – it has completely stopped trading,” says the Which? website. “And criminals are posing as claims management firms to get customers’ details before using them to submit their own applications.”  

Meanwhile, confusion over the refund process has arisen as a result of a series of legitimate text messages sent out by banks concerning payouts to customers.

“Often told not to respond to communication with banks via text message, customers assumed the move to be false,” says the Daily Express

A number of banks including NatWest and Halifax have responded to confused customers on Twitter to confirm the legitimacy of the messages.

Urging all Thomas Cook customers to check who they are dealing with before handing over their personal information, Mike Haley of fraud prevention firm Cifas said: “If you did book a holiday with Thomas Cook, be cautious if you receive unsolicited calls or emails from companies suggesting that you rebook your holiday through them, or offering you a holiday that’s much cheaper than it should be.”

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