Analysis of the case study data shows that while in some instances it is quite clear that the criminal activity is being carried out by a fraudster there are many cases where the distinction between fraudster and victim is not so straightforward.
If a company has been targeted several times by a person using a payment card and the bookings show various email addresses, IP addresses, and passenger names, then the likelihood is that the card holder has been the victim of an organised fraud.
One of the most commonly encountered situations is where the card holder has had their details misused and is not the fraudster. When this situation arises the fraudster is likely to be one of the other passengers travelling in the party. This is especially true of serious criminals who are making use of the services illegally obtained but are trying to remain hidden by not appearing as the lead passenger or person making the payment. Where a company is repeatedly targeted a frequent fraudster is likely to pop up on many bookings and may raise suspicion, but never enough to confirm the actual identity of who the fraudster is.
In some cases the fraudster does not appear on the booking at all. This occurs when they act as ‘the travel agent’ offering their services to organise travel arrangements from an airline for an innocent party, fulfilling the services requested and taking the innocent victims money, but purchasing the elements of the services from the airline on stolen credit cards. This is particularly common when defrauding airlines of tickets.
This situation creates three potential victims in one transaction, the individual that has purchased their travel arrangements in good faith only to find out that they have taken part in a fraudulent booking, the defrauded card holder and the airline or hotel that eventually receives a chargeback. In some cases the airline or hotel may permit the travel arrangements to be used, but only if further payment is made.
Another type of payment fraud that arises in travel is where the card holder has committed fraud themselves as they are looking for a free holiday exploiting the credit card refund provisions in section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This is type of fraud is usually referred to as a chargeback and typically occurs when groups of people travel together.
The concluding fact is that it is not always clear who is the innocent victim and who is the fraudster.