Thousands of cases of holiday booking fraud identified by police have prompted new warnings for holidaymakers searching for their next dream trip.

Ilkley agency Footloose Adventure Travel has issued new guidance on how to avoid being targeted by fraudsters after the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) said it had received reports of more than 4,500 cases, including false Facebook adverts for holiday accommodation, airline tickets and package holidays.

Police say fraudsters have stolen at least £7m from unsuspecting customers after bogus companies advertised and sold places to stay, often in hard-to-reach parts of the world.

Susanne Muskita, from Footloose Adventure Travel, a specialist travel agent and tour operator, says while the web has changed the way we search for and book holidays, customers can never be 100 per cent sure of the product they buy unless an agent has vetted all providers in the chain, from airlines to local accommodation and guides.

She says people often ask why they need to book trips to exotic locations through an agent, as they have found cheaper deals online.

She said: “We use our own agents in every country we sell holidays to. We know them personally and the money our customers pay will go into a trustee account as we are members of the Travel Trust Association (TTA). If you book the trip with flights as well, then the holiday will be completely ATOL bonded.

“When you book through an agent, you know exactly what you’re paying for and there are no hidden costs,” added Susanne.

“The NFIB pointed out that consumers often rely on online reviews and this can lead them directly to choosing a bogus provider.

“Only a reputable agency with the financial protections afforded by ATOL and TTA can deliver true peace of mind, plus the added bonus of having visited every single destination we sell to. We think it’s best to ask a real human being.”