Think you’ve found the deal of a lifetime when you see last-minute airline ticket available for just a fraction of the usual price? Or someone offer you a big discount for a filght ticket?
Be careful before you buy, or you could wind up with no ticket and losing your money to criminals – a victim of airline ticket fraud.
How does airline ticket fraud work?
Scam 1: Too-good-to-be-true airfare
Thieves are setting up fake airline booking sites to trick you into buying incredibly low-priced tickets. After you use your credit card to book the airfare online or use the dummy customer-service number listed, you get a confirmation email, but not the tickets. In some cases, the con artists will call you to say the price of the tickets has since gone up, so you need to pay the difference. (That would never happen with a real booking site: Once you buy tickets, they’re yours at that price with no increase to come.)
Scam 2: Fake Airline Employees or fake Travel Agent
Fake airline flight attendant or fake travel agents offer discounted tickets with up to 70% discount, but they say you have to act quickly and pay by Western Union, Wise or bank transfer. In some cases also in Crypto currency. In the end your money is gone and you will never see any ticket. Note: Scammers are taking full advantage of social media by posting false offers across different pages and private messages (inbox).
Don’t trust agents who have only WhapsApp, gmail or Messenger.
Scam 3: Switches that never happen
The scammers creep in when you need to make a change to your plane tickets—for instance, if you have to adjust your travel plans or if your flight is canceled or delayed. You google the airline’s phone number, but you actually call a fake number that con artists have set up.
This isn’t Delta, United Airlines, or whoever you want to reach, but you don’t know that—and you give the voice on the other end of the line your personal information and credit card number. You pay the rebooking fees, which can be as much as two times more expensive than the original tickets were. When you later connect with the real airline, you find out they don’t know anything about your changing or canceling your travel plans.
Scam 4: Stolen Credit Cards to buy airline tickets
Criminals use stolen, compromised or hacked credit card details to buy airline tickets. The criminals offer these tickets for sale at bargain prices via professional-looking websites or social networking accounts which appear to be for legitimate travel agencies or agents. The criminal ‘travel agents’ ask for immediate payment, typically by cash, bank transfer or virtual currencies. After receiving your payment, the criminal sends you the flight booking confirmation – with their original purchase details deleted. If the owner of the stolen credit card which was used by the criminal to make the initial purchase reports it before the scheduled flight, the ticket will be cancelled by the airline and you will be unable to travel. If the credit card owner reports the fraudulent purchase during your trip, you could be stranded with no way to return home.
Scam 5: Sham giveaways
Airline tickets cost a pretty penny, so getting two free sounds great to most people. And airlines themselves sometimes hold ticket lotteries, which adds a veneer of authenticity to the fake variety. Cybercriminals exploit the situation with sham giveaways, and this year they added WhatsApp to their repertoire, and expanded the range of “prizes.” Today, more than half of all online booking rip-offs involve air travel. Fake travel deals, fraudulent airline competitions and air ticket scams are all on the rise.
Warning signs a ticket ‘sale’ could be fraud
There are some red flags to look out for when you see a flight to your dream destination advertised for an extremely low price:
Is the ticket price significantly cheaper than anywhere else? – Since they make 100 per cent profit, criminals will offer bargain prices to entice you to take their ‘deal’.
Someone offer you big a discount, like 40% or higher for flight tickets? It is probably a scamer.
Is the departure date in the next few days? – Criminals will offer fraudulently purchased tickets only one or two days before the flight (or even the same day), before the real credit card owner notices the fraud and cancels the ticket
Are you asked to pay in cash or via bank transfer? – With these methods, your money is gone instantly and you have little recourse to get it back in case of fraud
Does the travel agency’s website/social media account provide a full range of contact details, including a physical address and landline telephone number? – If not, do some research to confirm it is a legitimate, certified travel agency before purchase.
How to Avoid Travel Scams
- Do your research. If you come across a company you haven’t dealt with before, research it before making any purchases.
- Double check the URL before you enter personal and payment information.It can be easy to click on a sponsored ad or imposter website without noticing. Before you enter any 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.
- Make online purchases with your credit card. Fraudulent charges made on a credit card can usually be disputed, whereas 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.
- Never pay by Western Union, bank transfers or in crypto currency. In most cases your money is gone and you will never see any tickets.
- 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 and no physical address.
Tips for making safe purchases
- Book airline tickets directly from the airline, reputate online travel agency which is certified by relevant authorities or a flight comparsing tool who link to big reputate travel agencies
- Only buy tickets online from websites with secure payment systems (e.g. https at the beginning of the web address)
- Never pay your tickets by sending money by Western Union, Wise Transfer, bank transfer or pay cash.