As most of the world starts traveling again after a terrible pandemic, there is no surprise that there are a lot of travel scams that you can be a victim of. If you are just about to go on a vacation, the last thing you want to do is be taken advantage of with anything related to tourism.
One of the best ways to avoid this, in general, is to make sure you’re booking through reputable travel and package sites. Choose platforms that have a good reputation and take security seriously. One of the most significant overall travel scam risks stems from booking through questionable or fake sites where your private information is stolen.
There’s one particular type of scam to look out for right now, in addition to booking through fraudulent sites. The fraud is known as phishing and it’s not exclusive to travel or to targeting individuals. Phishing is, indeed, one of the most significant cybersecurity risks even large companies face.
What Is Phishing?
Phishing scams are a type of cybercrime where a target is contacted, usually by email but potentially by phone or text. During the contact, the goal is to try and lure you into providing any kind of sensitive data. Sensitive data can include banking or credit information, as well as passwords.
Then, the scammer can use the information they gain to access accounts, leading to financial theft and loss.
One of the first large-scale phishing lawsuits came about in 2004. A teenager in California created a fake website imitating another popular site. By making that site, he could get users’ credit card and bank account emails and steal from them.
Some of the features often seen in phishing emails include:
- Lucrative offers that seem too good to be true.
- A sense of urgency. You’ll often see phishing emails where the scammer is telling you to act quickly. For example, with travel, maybe they’re telling you to take advantage of a booking opportunity as fast as you can.
- Emails with hyperlinks should raise some suspicion. Whenever you get an email that has a link within it, you should hover your mouse over the actual URL so you can see what it’s pointing to.
- If you get an email that you weren’t expecting and an attachment, it could be phishing.
- Anytime you receive an email or text message from someone you don’t know, you should avoid clicking on it.
Below we’ll go into a little more about travel-related phishing scams.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, around $80 million in losses have been reported in vacation and travel scams since January 2020.
Fake Money Requests From Friends
There are several examples of unconventional travel phishing scams. One of them occurs when you receive a text message from someone you know. The message claims that your friend needs money because they left their wallet in a taxi. This doesn’t have to be directly related to travel, but it can be.
Another example of a similar scam occurs when you think a relative or loved one is emailing you to tell you that they’re stranded on a trip with no money and need you to help them. You might also be the victim of phishing if you get an email that tells you a loved one has lost their luggage while traveling, and they need money to help hold them over until they can get it back.
Some scammers create targeted ads on social media related to travel and booking vacations. Then, if you click those ads, you’re taken to a fake website. As mentioned, most scammers using fake websites want to steal your credit card information, but some can also infect your computer.
You might have a hard time discerning copycat travel sites from the real ones, so you have to look very carefully and check the URL before you click it.
Another red flag on social media, aside from targeted ads, is if someone reaches out to you in a private message on any of the platforms. They might offer you a great deal on airline tickets or a travel package, for example. That’s more than likely a scam.
Don’t pay anything when you’re booking travel of any sort before you read the fine print. Again, make sure it’s reputable and check their cancellation policy when you’re booking with a third party.
According to the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), not just individual travel consumers but travel advisors should watch out for an airline ticketing fraud scheme. The scheme isn’t new, but it had gone dormant since 2014 and since re-emerged.
ARC’s manager of fraud investigations told Travel Weekly that unauthorized ticketing attacks, on average, are allowing scammers to issue between five and ten airline tickets using the credentials for what’s known as a global distribution system.
Small and midsize travel agencies are most frequently targeted.
The COVID pandemic created numerous opportunities for scammers to prey on anxious, worried people. These scams can relate to travel as well.
For example, you could get phishing emails related to traveling alerts or warnings in the countries where you may be going or information about vaccines and vaccine requirements. The goal might be getting you to click on a link or attachment so the scammer can access your system.
How to Prevent Travel Phishing
Some of the important things you can do to avoid being the victim of travel phishing and phishing in general include:
- Avoid tempting offers that seem too good to be true because they typically are.
- Carefully inspect the address bar before you put in any sensitive information. You might notice something is misspelled or uses symbols instead of letters.
- Use trusted providers for bookings and type the address of their site manually.
- Don’t click links from unknown sources anywhere.
- If you see an offer come in from a travel company, call their office directly to check its validity.
- Make sure that you get your spam filters set up for email messages.
- When checking websites, make sure they have an SSL certificate, meaning the URL starts with HTTPS.
No one wants to be – especially in these times – the victim of a scam of any type, but taking a few extra precautions can help you avoid it.
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