Calls for greater international cooperation in combatting on-line travel fraud

The On-Line Fraud Affecting the Global Tourism Industry Conference held in Faro on Thursday achieved its objective by bring together over 200 people to learn about the threats that this type of fraud poses to the industry and ways in which these threats can be reduced, thus protecting local businesses involved in tourism as well as holiday makers themselves.

A total of ten presentations were made by the National Cyber Security Centre; Judicial Police Cyber Security Unit; Consumidor.pt; the Association of Local Lodging in Portugal, SEF, GNR, ASAE, PSP, Safe Communities Portugal and PROFiT a travel fraud organization from the UK.

The event started by overviews from the Mayor of Faro, Dr. Rogério Bacalhau; President of Regional Tourism Algarve, Desidério Silva; President of the Association of Inspectors Judicial Police, Ricardo Valadas; Presidente of AHETA Elidérico Viegas and President of Safe Communities Portugal David Thomas, who had intiated the idea of the conference.

During the conference the Secretary of State for Tourism Ana Mendes Godinho revealed that the tax revenue from local accommodation almost doubled in just over a year, from 69 million in 2015 to 123 million in 2017, which resulted from an entry into the formal economy of a group of units that were not registered and therefore out of the market”.

She added that the campaigns to integrate these accommodation in the formal economy “have had very positive results, namely” through a new rule that requires the registration of online booking platforms “.

“It is a rule that requires that the registration number be visible on the platforms, immediately leading to an entrance of housing units, has increased from 28 thousand registrations in 2015 to more than 50 thousand currently,” said the Secretary of State for Tourism.

According to Ana Mendes Godinho, the legalization of housing, “many of which had operated underground”, is also a way of promoting regular offers and combating fraud through advertising on the Internet.

“What Portugal is saying at the moment is that everything that is registered is reliable accommodation. It is an important step for security, because it gives a guarantee of the accommodation that exists and is a way of saying that, there, we are also a destination insurance, “concluded the official.

During the conference the President of AHETA Elidérico Viegas highlighted the threats posed to the tourism industry particularly those involved in local lodging through bookings made by the internet. He added that frauds affect consumers in particular, which is of concern to the EU but officials had been unable to deal with these problems so far.

David Thomas outlined the difficulties in dealing with such frauds which often involved fraudsters based overseas. He added that whereas it was clear that Portugal was doing its part, for example through the introduction of AL registration and the compulsory inclusion on AL numbers on adverts, greater collaboration between overseas law enforcement was needed so more effective measure could be introduced.

Those attending the conference learned about the different types of frauds that took place, in particular the rising number of fraud sickness claims being made by some tourists. Barry Gooch Founder of Prevention of Fraud in Travel, who had travelled from the UK for the conference, outlined the work of his association and how they collaborated with the police and industry in the UK in trying to tackle these types of fraud.

Various presenters explained enforcement issues, and ways in which such frauds could be reduced through checking websites closely before entering into agreements and transferring money. The conference also covered ways in which business could protect themselves through the better design of their websites and through improved internal security procedures.

There were two panel discussions and allowed those in the audience to ask questions of the presenters and share their own experience. Some of the presentations will be placed on the Safe Communities Portugal website www.safecommunitiesportugal.com

 


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