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Travel

Booking travel? Scammers are creating fake sites to lure you in

We’re a year into the pandemic and though we’ve made adjustments, we still need to take precautions. Social distancing is still encouraged across the country and many are still working remotely.

It’s hasn’t been easy to get a vaccine appointment, though more people are now eligible. Tap or click here to see how to add yourself to the COVID-19 vaccine waiting list. The good news is travel restrictions are slowly being eased as vaccination numbers are climbing.

People are itching to go places, and that’s understandable. Looking at Google Trends searches for “fully vaccinated travel” jumped 750% last Tuesday, while “CDC guidelines for travel” went up 650%. Of course, this gives crooks another way to take advantage of you. We’ll help you spot these scams.

Precheck yourself

Seasoned travelers know all about efficiently getting through airports and borders. The Trusted Traveler Program offers a choice of programs that expedite travel by land, sea and air: Global Entry, TSA Precheck, SENTRI, NEXUS and FAST.

To apply for any of these programs, go to https://ttp.dhs.gov and choose which one works for you. There are also links to additional government websites with more information.

Now, the Better Business Bureau has found websites that mimic some of these official government sites. The spoofed sites could appear high on your list of Google search results.

At worst, these sites are complete scams run by people who want to steal your personal information and money. Following this are sites that offer to take care of the registration process for a fee. Whether or not they actually do so upon payment is up in the air.

Then some sites will take payment and actually put the paperwork through for you. But why would you work with them when you can do it yourself without the extra fee? And no matter what happens, they have your personal information, which is never a good thing.

You won’t need a precheck if you are traveling within the country, but there are other things to worry about. Google and Apple’s navigation apps keep tabs on your location and destinations. Tap or click here for a private map alternative.

Seems legit

A fake website can appear identical to the real thing, but you can spot the differences if you follow some tips:

  • In the case of U.S. federal websites, you are looking for the URL to end in .gov. In Canada, government sites end in gc.ca.
  • A secure link begins with HTTPS:// (the “s” stands for secure) and has a lock icon in the address bar.
  • If you do make an online purchase, use your credit card. This way, you can dispute the charge if there’s a problem later. Gift cards and wire transfers may be as good as lost if things go sideways.
  • Use BBB’s scam tracker at bbb.org/ScamTracker to report and lookup scams.

Keep reading

Scam alert: 2 new tricks to watch out for (Warn your family!)

7 things to never search for on Google

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