Friday 30 September 2016

Irish holidaymakers stung for up to €7,000 in Canary Islands scams

Consumers urged to "be vigilant"

Published 05/02/2016 | 02:30

Old Port, Puerto del Carmen
Old Port, Puerto del Carmen

Unscrupulous traders are regularly scamming Irish holidaymakers in the Canary Islands, it has been reported.

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The European Consumer Centre in Ireland (ECC Ireland) received six reports last month alone of consumers, including elderly holidaymakers, being targeted by aggressive selling practices in the Spanish islands, it says.

In one of the cases, a complaint involved an older Irish consumer who had purchased a tablet computer in Spain for €160. The trader then asked for her pin code and bank details "for broadband and additional services".

On her return home, the consumer discovered she was charged €5,000.

Most complaints involve sums of between €200 and €300, ECC Ireland says, but there have been cases of consumers scammed by up to €7,000.

Just this week, an Irish holidaymaker reported being pressurised into buying several electronic goods, including a laptop, mobile and TV in the Canaries.

After entering his pin code and authorising the card payment, the customer later found that he had been charged up to €5,000, ECC Ireland says.

The Canary Islands are a hugely popular destination for Irish visitors, with a special taxation system (VAT-equivalent taxes are 10pc) adding to their appeal.

Some 900,000 passengers travelled between airports in Ireland and the Canary Islands last year, according to the Spanish Tourism Office in Ireland.

Contacted by Independent.ie Travel, it expressed its surprise at ECC Ireland's "special mention" of the Canaries, pointing out that the warnings did not relate to travel service providers, tourist activities or tourist-related businesses.

The Spanish Tourism Office advises consumers to follow basic precautions and avoid aggressive salesmen when buying goods, as they would in any country.

"We would like to reassure the Irish consumer that if they are unfortunately caught out by a scam or fraud they are protected as with any purchase in a European Member State, including Ireland," said its Managing Director, Gonzalo Ceballos.

"Scams happen everywhere, not just the Canaries," said Martina Nee, ECC Ireland's press officer. The Centre highlighted the islands due to a "high number" of reported scams and the volume of Irish visitors they receive, she said.

"While there are many legitimate traders in the Canary Islands and other holiday spots, there are others who have used very manipulative tactics," she added - including targeting older holidaymakers at their hotels.

"Be vigilant on holidays," she advised. "Don't let your guard down."

How to protect against holiday scams

  • Be as vigilant as you would be at home
  • Don't be rushed - take your time with purchases
  • Keep cards within sight at all times
  • Check the amount entered on the card reader
  • Bring a friend to help alleviate any pressure

What to do if you are scammed

  • If you notice the scam, address it on the spot by complaining and asking for a Hojas de Reclamaciones (official consumer complaint) form
  • Report the fraud to local police
  • Contact your bank or credit card company immediately (it may be possible to get assistance by way of a chargeback procedure)
  • Consider cancelling your card to prevent further transactions
  • Contact the Garda Fraud Bureau on 01 666-3777

February is the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network’s (ICPEN) scams prevention month.

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