01 of 06
Don't Get Caught by These Online Travel Scams
Many travelers believe their hazards truly begin after they have departed for the airport, and are well on their way to parts unknown. With the potential for viral outbreaks, unknown weather events, and pickpockets seemingly around every corner, travelers have every reason to be aware of their surroundings when visiting a new country. However, new international travelers may not realize their biggest hazards may come where they least expect it: right at home.
When it comes to travel scams, more and more international travelers are being targeted on their personal computers and smartphones every day. From elaborate phishing scams that make travelers think their tickets have been canceled, to social media advertisements spreading viral attacks on the unsuspecting public, travelers are subject to more and more attempts to part them with their money. What does a traveler need to do in order to make sure they are actually getting the most of their adventures?
When it comes to beating the... online travel scams, education is the best form of defense. Here are the five most common forms of online travel scams everyone should watch for, and how to beat them before they come after a traveler's hard-earned money.Continue to 2 of 6 below.
02 of 06
The Free Airline Ticket Online Travel Scam
One of the most prevalent situations travelers may face is the free airline ticket online travel scam. One of the most visible scams in the marketplace, the free airline ticket online scam makes travelers think they are getting a free ticket, when in turn they get nothing for sharing a viral post.
How it works: The free airline ticket online travel scam is most prevalent on social media channels, like Facebook or Twitter. Through this scam, travelers often see a message from a page presenting itself as the official page of an airline or travel provider. The message claims every traveler can claim two free airline tickets within the United States if they click on the link, and then like, comment on, or share the scam with their friends.
Who it targets: Because airline tickets can be costly, this scam targets anyone who is remotely interested in traveling to see friends or family. It relies on targets following the instructions in order to self-perpetuate online, hopping from one person... to another.
Unfortunately, there are never any free airline tickets available at the end of the scam. Instead, travelers give a third party unaffiliated with the airline access to their information, which could range from access to their friends' list and availability to post on their timeline, all the way up to their username and password for their social media account.
How to avoid: Lucky for online travelers, this scam is easy to pick out for any traveler. First, check for misspellings in the page name, or titles like "Official Page" to tip off a fake scam. Only pages with blue checkmarks are validated pages by the social networks. Second, an airline running an actual contest will never ask travelers for access to their page through a third-party application, or to re-sign into their social media network. If this "contest" asks you to do either, don't click on it. Instead, report the scam to the social media channel, in order to kill it before it gets any farther.Continue to 3 of 6 below.
03 of 06
The Free Amusement Park Ticket Online Travel Scam
Much like the free ticket scam, the free amusement park ticket online travel scams looks to glean travelers' personal information, in exchange for a free ticket to an amusement park. However, that ticket rarely exists - leaving the would-be traveler compromised and empty-handed for their efforts.
How it works: There are two primary ways the free amusement park ticket online travel scam works. First, much like the free airline ticket online travel scam, scam artists on social media channels may offer free amusement park tickets in exchange for traveler's liking, sharing, or logging in for more information. Once again, these tickets don't exist - and travelers are left giving out their personal information to a third party unconnected with their favorite amusement parks.
In the second example, travelers looking for a good deal on amusement park tickets may join online discount groups or search deal sites for amusement park tickets. In this version of the "free"... amusement park ticket scam, travelers may be offered unused days on a multi-day ticket, in exchange for a courtesy fee or shipping and handling. However, transferring days on a multi-day ticket is often against the terms and conditions of a ticket, leaving purchasers at risk of losing their money - assuming the ticket is good at all.
Who it targets: Unlike the free airline ticket scam, the free amusement park ticket online travel scam primarily targets families who are looking for getaways. Through social media, this scam is often perpetuated from family to family, hopeful they can get a free getaway for simply sharing a status or link. Through peer-to-peer sales sites, these scams are often offered by "frugal parents" who want to help out another family.
How to avoid: As the old adage goes: if it's too good to be true, it probably is. Travelers who think they are getting a great deal should think twice about how good their deals are, especially when the site has misspellings or no official branding from their favorite amusement parks. Instead, those who are looking for a deal should consider verified discount sites, like Groupon, to get a good deal.Continue to 4 of 6 below.
04 of 06
The Facebook Page Online Travel Scam
While the first two scams are primarily perpetuated on social media, the third scam lives for the number one social media site in the world: Facebook. All a scam artist needs is a logo and an incentive to capture thousands of travelers through viral means.
How it works: A fake Facebook page online travel scam happens when the scam artist creates an official-looking page with the name of the travel provider, along with their logos and (occasionally) additional content. Through these pages, they will create promotions or offers for travelers, with the intention of getting them to sign up or share the link to their networks. In many cases, these "offers" run from a discounted airline ticket to a completely free ticket for signing up on their third-party app.
Who it targets: This online travel scam often targets anyone who is remotely interested in traveling for cheap. Travelers will click on this scam because it is shared by a friend they are connected to, leading them to believe... that this is a reliable and trustworthy website.
However, with no actual connection to the company, would-be travelers often end up giving away their information to third parties who have nothing but ill intent for their personal information. These intentions can run from identity theft to mining friends' information to find more targets for their information-collecting scam.
How to avoid: Travelers who run into a fake Facebook page online travel scam should first and foremost report the page to Facebook for removal. Afterwards, those same travelers can look up other means to travel for a discount, including legitimate mystery shopping programs.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
"Confirm Your Flight" Online Travel Scams
One of the newest travel scams to target travelers has little to do with social media but instead has everything to do with timing. In the "Confirm Your Flight" online travel scam, would-be scam artists look beyond social channels, and instead reaches out where travelers may be most vulnerable: in their e-mail box.
How it works: Days or weeks before a trip, travelers may receive an e-mail branded from their airline. In the e-mail, the "airline" may say that the traveler has not yet confirmed their ticket, and must go to a website to log in to confirm their travel. When they click on the link, the traveler is guided to an official-looking site, where they may be asked to confirm their itinerary PNR or sign in through their frequent flyer account.
Who it targets: This scam often targets anyone with a frequent flyer account, and may be preparing for a flight in the coming days or weeks. While some attacks are more random than others, those who have posted travel plans on... social media may be targeted in particular.
Scam artists who are looking for information from travelers are targeting one of two pieces of information: either the travel PNR or the frequent flyer account information. Those who have the PNR for the flyer can potentially steal critical items of a traveler's identity, including full name, address, and passport number, which can cause complications later on. Those looking to steal frequent flyer accounts could be looking for ways to steal points and miles from the unknowing traveler, which can be later redeemed for travel in someone else's name.
How to avoid: Anyone who receives one of these e-mails should not respond to them, or click on the link. Instead, they should first contact their airline to ensure their tickets have not yet been compromised. By working directly with a travel provider, travelers can ensure their trips go off without a problem.Continue to 6 of 6 below.
06 of 06
The Bogus Hotel Site Online Travel Scam
Finally, booking scams can also target travelers who are looking for the best deal on their trips as well. According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, over 15 million travelers fall victim to false booking websites every year, costing travelers - and the industry - millions of dollars.
How it works: When it comes to online travel deals, many travelers will comparison shop between websites to get the best deal. When they find the best price for their accommodations, they have no problem booking it and trusting the site they are looking at. However, not all websites are equal. Some sites offer a great deal, just to have the deal not actually exist at the hotel.
Who it targets: This scam often targets those who are familiar with comparison shopping online, with the biggest target being those comparing via search engines. Scam artists will build convincing sites that are search-engine friendly, which look and respond like regular online travel agency websites.
However, in some... situations, there is nothing powering these websites on the back end at all. Instead, a traveler is sending their credit card information and pre-paying for a hotel up front for no reservation, and nobody to go back to when their hotel reservations are not valid.
How to avoid: First and foremost, smart travelers are quick to ask questions about where they are booking online, including their reputation. Those who are concerned about the authenticity of their website should walk away, and use a trusted online travel agency. Even though it may cost more, the peace of mind that comes with a trusted online travel agency outweighs a great deal any day of the week.