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More than 5,000 people were the victims of holiday booking fraud last year, with their total losses amounting to £7m, research suggests.

Travel association ABTA said victims lost an average of £1,380 each, having bought bogus airline tickets, accommodation or organised tours.

It said fraudsters were using increasingly sophisticated methods to target people looking for good deals.

"This crime causes very real emotional distress," boss Mark Tanzer said.

"As victims often find out just before they travel, or even in resort, that they have been defrauded, it can then be very difficult and expensive to obtain a legitimate replacement booking," he added.

More than half (53%) of the crimes related to the sale of airline tickets, with scammers particularly targeting people visiting family and friends in Africa and the Indian subcontinent.

One in four cases involved accommodation, such as payments to stay in upmarket villas which are either fictitious or are being offered without the owner's knowledge.

Spain and France were among the destinations most commonly affected.

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