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Cybersafe March 30, 2022

Planning a trip this summer? Here’s how to protect yourself from online travel scams

It’s summer again. With the easing travel restrictions in the country, many people are looking forward to making their long-awaited vacation plans a reality. Some are already creating their travel itineraries. Others are searching for cheap travel packages and deals online.


Unfortunately, scammers don’t take vacations from duping the public. They continue to trick people, particularly travelers, through their too-good-to-be-true travel packages, fake airfare deals, and other fraudulent schemes.


One of the most prevalent travel scams is the “free airline ticket scam”, where fraudsters

publish “free airline ticket” ads on various social media channels to attract internet users who are interested in traveling. 


Similarly, fraudsters send emails, calls, or text messages claiming that a person has won a “free airline ticket”—although that person never joined any contest before. 


In reality, the fraudsters will ask their victims to pay some fees first, say, for taxes and insurance, to be able to claim the ticket. This means, the “free airline ticket” is not really free. While some people can get their tickets after making the payment, some individuals aren’t able to receive tickets and are completely tricked by scammers.


Authorities also warn the public to be vigilant against fake or “spoofed” websites of booking platforms for airlines and hotels. Through these spoofed websites, scammers offer cheap promotional prices to lure internet users and ask for their personal information such as names, one-time passwords, and contact numbers, resulting in a breach of security and unlawful use of an individual’s personal data.


There are also instances when the website shows an error message at the end of the transaction and sends instructions to the user to wire funds for payment of the tickets, making it difficult for the authorities to track the money.


This online travel scam is a form of phishing. Phishing is a type of scam where fraudsters lure the public to share sensitive information which is vital for completing online banking transactions and therefore should never be shared with anyone. 


To avoid the risk of falling for these phishing scams, here are some tips and reminders you should know.


  1. Report calls and text messages from unknown numbers and emails


Don’t entertain phone calls and text messages asking for your name, one-time-pin (OTP), and other online banking log-in information. Remember that banks and legitimate booking sites will never ask for your personal information. 


  1. Be wary of “free” airline ticket offers online


If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Do not click suspicious links such as ads claiming you won a free airline ticket or vacation getaway. Be careful and practice due diligence when it comes to the information you consume online.


  1. Check the legitimacy of the website you visit


Double-check the official website and social media accounts of the booking sites you are viewing. Make sure that the website is secured. Look for web addresses that start with “https://” indicating that the website is secure. Ignore and report suspicious websites that require you to share personal and financial information.


  1. Do not transfer money to unknown individuals or companies


When making online payments to a biller or merchant, always be cautious. Do not send money to unknown individuals or companies. If possible, keep proofs of transactions such as official receipts and confirmation of payments to show to the bank representatives.


  1. Report all suspicious activities to authorities


Fraudsters are always finding new ways to gain access to our financial information. When you receive an email or SMS that requires you to make an urgent payment, do not feel obligated to do so. Immediately report the incident to your bank and the authorities.


Banks continue to provide a safe, secured, & convenient banking experience for you. Banks also regularly review and update their policies to protect the public from various kinds of cyberattacks. 


Stay away from online travel scams with these tips and reminders. Be #Cybersafe and let’s #FightFraudTogether!