When the world is in chaos, you can bet your bottom dollar that scammers aren’t too far behind. We’ve seen countless times that criminals use world events or local disasters as a lure for their schemes, hoping to get rich quickly. Tap or click for three immediate steps if you fall for a scam.
Unfortunately, scammers are now taking advantage of flights. Staff shortages at airlines have caused many flights to be canceled or delayed. With holiday travel in full bloom, thieves are taking advantage of this and trying to rip travelers off.
Read on to see how the scams work and what you can do to avoid being ripped off.
Here’s the backstory
Many airlines are dealing with staff shortages. This has led to several flight delays and cancellations. That’s when panic sets in as you scramble to look for a different way to get to your destination.
The best thing you can do is stay calm and look for a reasonable replacement flight. But that can be tricky when the travel websites you visit tell you that there are no flights or they are fully booked.
But there’s another phenomenon to worry about beyond a missed flight. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns that scammers are trying to cash in on all the recently canceled flights. Scammers are creating fake airline ticket booking sites or customer service numbers to charge travelers for rescheduling flights.
The scam works by criminals creating a fake booking website with seemingly legitimate flights. Nothing seems out of the ordinary, and the price is lower than expected. But as soon as you book a flight and pay for it, the company calls to say there is an additional charge to finalize the booking.
The scammers already have your money, and the call is to get even more from you. When you go to the airport, you’ll find that you aren’t on the passenger list or that your flight doesn’t even exist.
The BBB warns that there is another variation of the scam. In this version, your original flight is just fine, but scammers send out fake cancellation notices. The message says you must rebook your flight by phoning the provided number, and the airline books you on another flight.
How to avoid travel scams
Before you click on a random link in the hopes of scoring a last-minute flight, there are a few things that you must do to ensure your safety. Here are suggestions from the BBB on avoiding travel scams:
- Do your research. If you come across a company you haven’t dealt with before, research it before making any purchases. Check BBB.org for reviews and feedback from previous customers.
- Double-check flight details before calling support. Scammers are sending fake airline cancellation emails and text messages that can easily be mistaken for the real deal. Confirm the information in the message, such as the flight and reservation numbers, is correct before calling customer support.
- Confirm the URL before entering personal and payment information. It can be easy to click on a sponsored ad or impostor website. Before entering sensitive information, double-check that you are on the right website and that the link is secure. (Secure links start with “HTTPS//” and include a lock icon on the purchase page.) Tap or click here for ways to ensure each site you visit is secure.
- Be wary of third-party websites. Some websites appear to offer a legitimate service but are only fronts for a scam. Be suspicious of websites with no working customer service number or physical address. Typos and grammatical errors can be indications of a scammer’s handiwork.
- Make online purchases with your credit card. Fraudulent charges on a credit card can usually be disputed. That might not be the case with other payment methods. Unfortunately, there is no way to get back the personal information you may have shared.
If you’ve been a victim of an airline ticket or other travel scam, report your experience at BBB.org/ScamTracker. This could help others avoid falling victim to similar scams.