It’s neither United nor Delta Airlines on the other end of the telephone. It’s a scam artist attempting to rob would-be passengers of their money.
Maybe your booking muscles have atrophied since you last booked an airline ticket or made an internet reservation for a rental vehicle.
However, be on the lookout for scammers that prey on would-be visitors when summer travel takes up.
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The Better Business Bureau is warning prospective travelers about three scams that could cost them thousands of dollars, depending on the length of their trip. Here are some things to keep in mind when you dust off your frequent-flier number:
SCAM 1: Airfare that seems too good to be true
Thieves are building up bogus airline booking sites to dupe you into purchasing tickets at meager prices. You will get a confirmation email, but not the keys, after using your credit card to buy the flight online or calling the fictitious customer care number mentioned. In certain circumstances, the con artists may phone you to inform you that the ticket price has subsequently increased and that you must pay the difference. (This would never happen on a legitimate booking site: once you purchase tickets, they’re yours for the amount you paid, with no further increases.)
Only after victims phone the airline and learn there is no booking record do they understand they’ve been duped—and will never see those tickets.
SCAM #2: Never Happening Switches
Fraudsters will approach you when you need to modify your aircraft tickets, such as if you need to rearrange your trip plans or if your flight is canceled or delayed. You look for the airline’s phone number on the internet, but you end yourself dialing a phony number put up by scam artists.
This isn’t Delta, United Airlines, or whomever you’re looking for, but you have no idea—and you give the person on the other end of the telephone your personal information and credit card number. According to the BBB, you pay the rebooking costs, which may be up to two times the price of the original tickets. When you subsequently contact the actual airline, you discover that they do not know your intentions to change or cancel them.
SCAM #3: Fraudulent Car Rental Deals
People who choose to drive rather than fly is just as vulnerable. When you search online for a vehicle rental business, you may come across a cheap daily cost and call the phone number. Still, it’s a fake number that doesn’t connect you to a customer care representative from, say, Avis, Hertz, or Enterprise. When the fraudster claims that paying for a reservation using a gift card or prepaid debit card would get you a significant discount, you go out and purchase a few cards, share the PIN, and nothing happens.
The Better Business Bureau received reports from victims who said the phone representative insisted the money didn’t transfer, forcing them to repeat the process and lose even more money. In contrast, another victim was told the car would be delivered to the train station, where they were waiting—and waiting—and waiting.
AN EXPENSIVE PROBLEM
According to the Federal Trade Commission, between January 2020 and April 7, 2021, COVID-19-related fraud cost US customers $399 million.
“COVID put a halt to travel. People’s desire for travel repressed by COVID begins to release when the vaccine is widely disseminated and signals of life returning to normal,” says Karen Xie, associate professor of service analytics at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business. “Both business and pleasure travelers are planning vacations again, and fraudsters have taken notice of the increase in travel searches. They sniff a way to keep people in the game by looping them in.”
Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and Steve Daines (R-Montana) wrote to interim FTC head Rebecca Slaughter today, urging the agency to do more to safeguard consumers from the various travel frauds that are now circulating. According to their letter, 67 percent of Americans intend to vacation this summer, according to a poll.
The BBB recommends the following recommendations to help you avoid being a victim of a scam:
- Before you purchase something from a business you’ve never heard of, do some research on them. Scams may be found on third-party websites.
- Sponsored links should be avoided. Whether you hover your mouse over the URL, it will display you if it is valid. Before entering any personal or financial information, be sure it begins with “https://.”
- To avoid coming across fraudulent phone numbers and email addresses, go directly to a company’s website for contact information rather than doing an online search.
- Verify any unbelievable offers with the firm immediately. Check to see whether the business you’re seeking to book with use third-party websites.
- Before you purchase anything, read the small print on the third-party booking site, such as cancellation and return conditions.
- Always use a credit card, not a prepaid debit card or a gift card, since you can’t get your money back after it’s gone.
- Save all of your booking-related emails and messages.