Online travel booking scams are on the rise! Holidays and vacations often involve trawling the internet to spot great deals and ways to save some bucks as you travel to your favorite destination.
And as consumers we couldn’t get happier with the convenience that comes with technology- I mean, I can just research a destination, watch out for cheap plane ticket deals and book my vacation! The world is on my fingertips, literally.
Millennials belong to the majority of victims of these travel booking scams!
Travel Scams and Fraud, exercise Caution online!
We appreciate technology; however, precautions need to be taken when making bookings online to avoid falling victims to cybercrimes.
Many holidaymakers leave themselves vulnerable to online scammers while hunting for travel deals.
You need to secure a great deal to a top destination may mean cutting corners and taking online risks.
While a holiday deal may seem enticing, entering your details online especially on suspicious websites may leave your personal data at risk and make you vulnerable to scammers.
A survey (of 1000 America holidaymakers) from cybersecurity firm McAfee, found that nearly 18 percent of the holidaymakers reported that they were either scammed or came super close to being swindled when booking a holiday online.
How do the cybercriminals operate when they scam and defraud you online?
On the same survey, 32 percent of Americans admitted that they are likely to use a website they’ve never heard of before just because it has some great deals.
Cybercriminals are aware of this, so they invest their time and effort in creating fraudulent links and malicious travel websites with crazy deals to lure ‘travel nuts’ away from reputable sites and websites.
Their main aim is to get you into their fraudulent websites, install the malware in your devices so that they can access your personal details like passwords and ideally, steal your money.
Cybercriminals have their favorite destinations too!
Not only are cybercriminals capitalizing on holidaymakers’ need for great deals when booking a holiday, but they are also targeting their favorite destinations.
The findings from McAfee research show that holiday hotspots for Americans such as;
- Cabo San Lucas Mexico
- Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
- Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Venice, Italy
- Canmore, Canada
Such hotspots generate the riskiest results when people are hunting for holidays online.
Cybercriminals usually take advantage of the high search volumes to divert unsuspecting users to their websites through advertisements of fake holiday packages and deals often using pop-up ads, professional looking links and in some cases texts, phishing emails or even calls.
It isn’t just fake websites and platforms you should be wary of – using public WiFi while traveling could potentially expose you to virtual fraudsters.
Airports and Hotels cybersecurity
Airports and hotels with free Wi-Fi focus more on offering you comfort and not cybersecurity, so they put little to no effort in protecting their guest’s network.
Now, all hope is not lost and there are several tips you can use to protect yourself online, so you don’t become the latest victim of the holiday fraudsters.
How to stay safe to avoid getting scammed and defrauded when booking a holiday online
1. Make sure all the sites you’re visiting have security measures in place
Scam websites often don’t have “SSL” (or “TLS”) website certificates, which is standard for almost every decent website, especially those asking for credentials or credit card information.
To make sure the site you are on is secure. Make sure the website’s URL begins with ‘https://’.
If a website lacks the SSL/TLS certificates and it’s not encrypting your information chances are that the site isn’t genuine.
2. Double-check web addresses
Virtual fraudsters often clone websites to trick consumers into thinking that they are booking through an official site. The website might appear legitimate but subtle changes to the web address can indicate that it’s not genuine.
For instance, an address that ends with .com can be changed to .org, so if you’re not paying attention you may miss such a small detail which a costly mistake can be.
3. Be careful with social media links
If you are curious about a link hover over them to get a preview and be on the lookout for impersonator characters and URLs meant to look like others. When in doubt, you can always copy the link to free analysis tools that can help detect malicious links.
4. Be careful with what you download
If you are prompted to download or install an app or a file stay clear. You should always download apps from the curated app store like Google Play or the Apple App Store.
5. Avoid direct bank transfers
You should be cautious if a site offers only bank transfer option. Reputable booking sites will offer an alternative of using electronic payments like PayPal.
6. Enable ‘two-factor authentication’ on your devices
This will provide an extra layer of protection should a malicious site to steal your credentials. Many social networks will send you a code to your phone or email when they detect a new device or browser attempting to access your account.
7. Log out after visiting a website
If you’ve logged in to a site or registered some personal details with it, make sure you log out. Clear your browser too. Closing your browsers will not guarantee total privacy.
8. Do your due diligence
This is probably the most obvious of all. If you are engaging with a website that you’re unfamiliar with, make sure you do some extra research just to be sure they are reputable and trustworthy.
A reputable company will always have a strong online presence. Chances are if a company has defrauded people before consumers will have posted some sort of alert online.
9. Keep your anti-virus up to date
Make sure that your anti-malware and anti-virus is up to date on all your devices be it Mac, PC, or mobile phone.
10. Look out for the obvious red flags
Lastly yet importantly, if a site looks sloppy, bad grammar, misspellings it’s almost always a scam. A site that really wants to do genuine business with you will invest time in designing their site and crafting perfect cold-pitch emails.
Does the website list a phone number? How about an address? If they don’t, I would do more research on who I am about to give my personal information and credit card number to before proceeding.
In addition, If your travel, flight, or hotel prices are considerably low compared to the competitors that alone should raise an alarm that something is off.
It’s always best to deal directly with the company providing your flight, tour package, cruise, or hotel.
Flying from A to B? Then try to book your flight on the individual airline’s official website directly.
Hotel booking? Try to book through the hotel chain’s official website directly.
You get my point:
Avoid third-party booking engines to further increase your online booking security. Don’t subject yourself to becoming defrauded. Protect yourself and do everything necessary to avoid becoming that twenty-percenter falling victim to a travel scam!