Every new season, event, holiday, natural disaster, you name it, scammers work hard. Holiday seasons are one of their favorite times to pounce.
Some personal criminals may spy that you are away and break in.
Most cybercrime targets you when you are scheduling and paying for your trip. Buying a plane ticket for a late summer or fall trip? Arm yourself with tech tips to make your travels easier and cheaper.
While you’re at it, here’s a new scam to watch out for: A “travel agent” or travel site that sells fake plane tickets. I have the details on how it works and ways to protect yourself from this predatory ploy.
A naughty trick
This is how it works. You search for tickets online or respond to a scam email. When you’re overwhelmed by all the travel sites and apps, you choose a reliable source with killer prices.
You can email, chat or talk to someone who will promise to get you a great rate on a ticket. You hand over your name, phone number and payment details. Using your information, they reserve a seat you think is confirmed and say you’re good to go.
You, the savvy shopper, go to the airline’s website and enter the flight information. You see your seat, you sit in the back to save money and you think about booking your travel.
Cybersecurity news: The real reason that there are so many hackers? The tools are cheap and easy to buy.
Then comes the surprise
You check in for your flight, and your ticket is nowhere to be found. That’s because the scammer reserved a seat instead of booking a ticket. At this point, the airline cannot do anything for you.
Hopefully you’ll find this out long before you’re standing at an airport customer service counter, suit in hand! Either way, you’re out the money and the airline ticket.
Be smarter than the scammer
How can you protect yourself from this scam and the other nasty travel tricks out there? First, use this bit of wisdom to serve you well in any situation: If you get a deal that’s too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.
◾ Do not pay until you see a confirmation number or e-ticket number. Anything else could be a booking, and is not a confirmed ticket.
◾ Book directly from the airline’s website to be extra safe. You might not get the lowest price, but hey, at least you can get frequent flyer points.
◾ If you are concerned about a ticket, speak directly to the airline’s customer service department. Do not call the travel agency booking site. Make sure the ticket confirmednot only reserved.
Still writing checks? There is a very good reason why you should stop.
How to spot fake travel sites
This is far from the only scam in town. Crooks are great at creating fake apps and sites to rip you off. Fortunately, there are signs to look out for that will help you avoid them.
◾ Check out official resources: The IS Better Business Bureau great place to start. The agency lists real companies; if you can’t find the one you’re working with, walk away.
◾ Online reviews and ratings: Read online reviews and ratings on sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, or Google. Keep in mind that extremely positive and negative reviews may be false. Watch for a balance of reviews and consistent themes.
◾ Accreditation and licensing: Many legitimate travel agencies are members of recognized industry organizations such as the American Association of Travel Consultants or have accreditation from the International Air Transport Association. Check for credentials on their site.
◾ Transparent pricing: Legitimate sites are clear and upfront about all costs. Avoid sites that have hidden fees or don’t clearly explain what you’re paying for and why.
◾ Secure payment options: Reputable travel sites use known secure payment options. Be wary of sites that only allow bank transfers or money orders. There is a relatively new red flag if a company does not accept cryptocurrency as payment only. Don’t do it!
Keep your tech-savvy going
It is called “Kim Komando today.” It’s a solid 30 minutes of tech news, tips, and callers with tech questions like yours from all over the country. Search for it wherever you get your podcasts. For your convenience, hit the link below for recent episodes.
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