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Airline Scams Have Survived the Pandemic – Here’s How You Can Survive Them

As we near the end of the pandemic-related travel restrictions and airline bookings rise, so too have travel booking scams been on the rise.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has released that they have been receiving reports of scams on their scam tracker, of scammers using fake booking sites and fake customer service numbers to deceive unwitting consumers.

President and CEO of the BBB for Vancouver Island, Rosalind Scott says that travel and vacation scams were the riskiest across Canada, with the median dollar loss for those scammed being five-thousand dollars per victim, before the pandemic.

“Scammers will not hesitate to resume these successful cash-grabbing cons, especially since they know people are eager to travel again,” Scott says. “Consumers need to carefully review the booking websites they visit and the numbers they call before sharing personal and credit card information.”

The Bureau says these scams could look a few different ways.

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One could be for those looking to add services to an existing flight, but don’t realize they’ve been directed to a third party, imposter website. One customer who fell victim was looking to add a dog and cat to their flight on United Airlines.

“They pretended to add our dog to cargo and cat to cabin, and stated they would charge us $925 for the dog and $425 for the cat,” the customer says. “They asked for credit card number, name, phone number, and full address, and once they got this information, they hung up. We called back about 10 times, and various operators hung up on us.”

The customer says they then called United and were told they had no record of the transaction. They assume that the scammers took their last name and booking number – provided by the customer – and put it into the United system to access their itinerary and passengers to appear more legitimate.

Another customer says, “I received a phone call right after [I booked the flight] stating that they wanted $100 per passenger to finalize it. Then, after calling the airline to complain, I discovered that the flight wasn’t available to begin with. The flight was never booked… this company just charged my card.”

The BBB says there’s a few ways to avoid these scams.

Top of the list is doing research. They say if you come across a company that you haven’t dealt with yet, to do some due diligence to make sure they’re legit. This can be looking at the BBB website checking reviews and feedback.

Next is double checking customer service numbers that you’ve been given. If you’re being directed to a particular number, the BBB says to see if you can find the number on your own, to ensure its legitimacy. That can be through either the official company website, or if you’ve bought from them before, going to the email chain from your last purchase.

Before you pay, making sure that the URL you’re at is legit and secure is key. Ensuring that the site’s address hasn’t been obscured in any way from the official site, as BBB says it’s easy to click an ad and get redirected to an imposter website without noticing. Secure connections on Google Chrome and Firefox look like a padlock to the left of the URL, you can click on the padlock to check that it’s secure and even check out the site’s security certificate.

Watching out for third-party websites is also important.

Finally, they say to make online purchases with a credit card because fraudulent charges can often be disputed which may not be the same as other payment methods. However, while you may be able to get your money back, there’s no way of getting your personal information back, once it’s out there.

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