fraud alert

A couple in the U.S. want travellers to know about a new online scam that’s targeting anyone looking at hotels and airlines. The family in Michigan almost lost a few hundred dollars when they clicked on a fake website. They thought it was for Delta Airlines and planned to use it to purchase discounted tickets. This was for overseas travel after their flight was delayed in Japan. They did a Google search and remembered seeing a site online that boasted of having the best deals for Delta Airlines. The site also stated it had the most affordable rates for Delta flights. The site they landed on stated it was affiliated with Delta Airlines but it wasn’t.

Because they were rushing to rebook flights, they didn’t bother to check the website or verify that it was legitimate. They called the phone number listed to rebook the flights. The person on the other end of the line said that the tickets cost $900 but they could offer a discounted price of $300. They agreed and a $300 service charge was added to their credit cards as a fee. But, upset that they had to pay a fee, they went to the airport later that day.

Delta explained they weren’t affiliated with the site and the Delta rep stated they would have changed their flights without a fee. Delta was also helpful in getting the couple’s $300 back. But, a concern is that the number of fake airline and hotel websites is growing. So, how can travellers stay safe?

Travellers Lose $1,200 on Average to Fake Airline and Travel Websites

Criminals that misrepresent themselves as legitimate airlines have sites set up for travellers to unknowingly enter their personal information. They use fake disclaimers that are from real airline and hotel websites. There are even fake Hilton websites that travellers need to know. According to the  Better Business Bureau  in the U.S., the average traveller can lose up to $1,200 on a fake site and not even know it’s phony.

Actor James McAvoy shared his story last October with People Magazine. He was booking a Ritz Carlton hotel stay and got suspicious when the online site he was on asked for a copy of his passport picture for the front desk. He never sent it and was able to avoid the hotel scam.

“Fraud is rapidly increasing in the travel industry and the chance you may land on a fake airline or travel agent website is unfortunately real,” stated the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

So, what can you do to avoid a fake hotel or airline website?

How to Avoid Fake Travel Websites

Fake hotel and airline websites are targeting travellers. And, if you’re not cautious, you might end up giving your money to a bogus website that looks like your airline or hotel.

Here are a few tips:

Verify the URL

When you look at a website’s internet address, does it have extra wording? A legitimate site like Delta will read as Delta.com. The Hilton will appear as Hilton.com. However, a fake website has extra wording. It might read as Deltadeals instead of Delta.com. Or, it might read BestHilton-Deals instead of Hilton.com. Delta Airlines suggests only using their Delta.com website or calling them directly.

“Any time you deal with a third party website claiming to represent Delta Air Lines, you risk compromising your personal information, as scammers are more frequently attempting to abuse the trust you place in us by impersonating Delta using illegitimate websites and outlets before defrauding you,” stated Delta in their online message.

To avoid fake sites: 

  • Look at the URL to confirm it’s legitimate. It should start with http or https.
  • If you have an account on the site, fake sites might read as ‘Verify account’ instead of ‘Sign-in’.
  • Go directly to the site you want by typing it in. For example, don’t click on a site that says Air-Canada-deals. Go directly to Air Canada.com. The legitimate site will be the first site listed in a search – not the ads listed surrounding it.
  • Run your virus scanner and update your software to reduce hacking attempts on your computer. If your computer is vulnerable and full of malware, it can lead you to fake sites.

Don’t Go By the Logo or Disclaimer

Fake websites are like spoofing sites for phishing scams. The scammers will include the actual hotel or airline logo and set up the site with the legitimate disclaimers.

To avoid fake logos and disclaimers:

Don’t open sites from emails about travel deals. And, even if a site looks legitimate, verify that the URL belongs to Air Canada or the Hilton if you’re unsure. You can always call the real company and confirm their URL address.

Look for the Secure Lock

On a fake site, they might copy and paste an image of the secure lock. In the real site, if you’re logging in to make a payment, you should see a lock symbol embedded in the bottom of the internet browser page, not placed in the middle of the screen.

To avoid fake sites:

When you go to a login page, look for the http to change to https in the site’s URL. Then look for the lock symbol at the bottom of your browser page or right before the URL address. It might appear in green color. If you see a red triangle with an exclamation point, it might be a fake site and it can be dangerous.

Look for Misspellings

Apparently, crooks can’t spell very well online. So, look out for misspellings which are a tell-tale sign it’s a fake site. It’s also a way to fool you into believing it’s a legitimate site. For example, if you’re in a hurry to find a new hotel, you might not notice the site you’re on is Mariott and not Marriott.com. It might also read as Deltaa.com instead of Delta.com.

To avoid this:

Go directly to the website you’re looking up. Don’t click on deals that include the hotel or airline name as these might be fake. If you see a hotel or airline in an email you receive, hover over it and look for misspellings in the URL. If it’s a site you see online, look for misspellings in the name or URL.

Don’t Look Up Hotels and Airlines from Public Wifi

Another way scammers target travellers is through public wifi. If you’re at the airport, a hotel or coffee shop, it’s tempting to use public wifi to look up flight and hotel deals. The problem is you’re making yourself vulnerable to what’s called a “man-in-the-middle attack”. In this type of cyber attack, a third-party infiltrates your online connection so you’re sharing your information with them instead of going directly to the legitimate site.

To avoid fake websites:

Use a virtual private network (VPN) like NordVPN or ExpressVPN if you’re going online with free wifi. A VPN can hide your identity and encrypt your data.

Safeguard Your Travel Plans to Avoid Scammers

To help you plan your travel, always go directly to the site where you’re looking for hotel or airline deals. Never click on attachments in emails or use free public wifi without a VPN. Call your airline or hotel directly if you’re unsure about the site you’re visiting before paying any money for your trip. And, always pay with a credit card so you can dispute the charge if it’s from a fake site.

Purchase Travel Insurance

Travel insurance can coverage for flight delays, trip interruptions, and flight cancellations. It can also help with hotel purchases or if you lose your bags or they are damaged en route. Having that piece of mind might make your rebooking experience less stressful and less urgent, helping you be more vigilant in key moments. Travel insurance can also offer medical coverage for unexpected hospital stays, medical appointments and dental visits abroad.

While no insurance policy covers scams or fraud, home insurance will often cover costs related to identify theft. With RateSupermarket.ca, you can compare travel and home insurance quotes from Canada’s leading insurance providers and make sure you get the best price possible.

The post Airline and Hotel Travel Scams That Can Ground Your Plans appeared first on MoneyWise.