Although the Covid-19 pandemic decreased the rate in which people traveled, the FTC estimates that online travel fraud cost U.S. citizens approximately $80 million over the past year and a half.
An estimated 184 million people will travel this Labor Day weekend. And while people are making last-minute travel plans, criminals are operating at full force. Their goal is to scam Americans out of their vacation money with fake flight deals, listings, and rental packages.
Some scammers are even bold enough to pose are airline agents.
I connected with Yoav Keren, the CEO of BrandShield LSE:BRSD, a company that works to eradicate travel scams by helping to detect and subsequently remove executive impersonators, band infringements, and counterfeit products. BrandShield discovered several ways that scammers will use social media platforms (e.g., Twitter (TWTR) - Get Twitter, Inc. Report , Instagram) to trick consumers, including posing as airline agents and creating fake listings for popular booking sites and airlines.
Here’s what Keren has to say about the most common ways consumers are duped and what you can do to protect yourself while booking your next trip.
What are the top tips for consumers to avoid being scammed?
- If someone reaches out to you on social media to offer you a travel deal, it’s likely a scam.
- Only provide your payment details to websites that you can verify: On your browser, you will see a locked padlock to the left of the URL; if it is not locked, it is a scam.
- Double-check the spelling of the website to ensure that it is accurate.
- Only go to third-party booking sites that have reputable reviews.
- Do not purchase airline tickets from travel sites claiming to provide discounts for only one airline.
- Avoid targeted ads on social media— instead, go directly to the website in question to take advantage of the deal; if it’s not available, the ad was likely fake.
What are the most common ways consumers are duped?
Scams and cybercriminals are increasingly sophisticated in how they defraud people.
Some examples include impersonating airline booking attendants on social media and creating fake sites replicating mainstream airlines with as little as one letter in difference from the legitimate websites.
A lot of these scams either require direct booking, where users supply their personal and financial information, or they will drive people offline to take a call over the phone with a fake booking agent.
We’ve noticed an increase in fraudulent domain registrations and examples of these impersonators on popular platforms like Facebook (FB) - Get Facebook, Inc. Class A Report , Instagram, and Twitter. Summer months between the end of June and Labor Day weekend are when we typically see a much higher rate of these incidents.