Travel Scams

When you're planning a vacation, the last thing you want to worry about is being scammed. Learn how to recognize travel scams and protect yourself.

Step 1:Recognize

Red Flags of a Travel Scam

If you are booking travel online, there are some red flags to look for that may indicate that it’s a scam, such as:

  • You’re asked to pay for your travel bookings with gift cards, wire transfer or prepaid debit cards. These are common payment methods used by scammers, as they’re difficult to trace and offer no buyer protection.
  • The travel deal you’re being offered seems too good to be true.
  • You’re asked to provide personal information such as your Social Security number before you can book the trip.
  • The travel booking website looks unprofessional or has grammar and spelling errors.

Step 2:Immediate Actions

If you think you are the victim of a travel scam, it is important to take action right away to protect yourself and your finances. Here are some steps to take if you think you have been scammed:

  • Keep all documentation related to the scam, including any emails, letters or receipts. This will be helpful if you need to file a police report or take legal action against the scammer.
  • Report the incident to the website or app where you booked the travel or first made contact with the scammer.
  • If you provided financial information, like your credit card number or bank account information, contact your bank or credit card company right away. They may be able to help you cancel the transaction or get your money back.
  • If you paid using gift cards or a wire transfer, contact the issuer. They may be able to help you stop the transaction.
  • If you provided personal information, like your Social Security number, you may be at risk for identity theft. Contact the three major credit reporting agencies – Experian, TransUnion and Equifax – and place a fraud alert on your credit reports. This will make it harder for the scammer to open new accounts in your name.

Step 3:Report

Reporting any type of cybercrime, including travel scams, is imperative to help others avoid being scammed. As a society, the more people that report online scams and fraud, the more national reporting data that is collected, and the better chance law enforcement has to catch the criminals and decrease cybercrime.

Step 4:Recover

Learn the Three Golden Rules to Spot a Scam

Scammers often utilize tactics to encourage you to act quickly and will use false information to persuade you to send money or personally identifiable information (PII). When faced with a questionable situation online, always follow the three golden rules to spot a scam:

Slow it down — Scammers often create a sense of urgency, trying to rush you into booking with them before you have time to do any research. They may be pushy and use high-pressure sales tactics. When booking travel online, take your time to avoid being rushed into a bad situation.

Spot check — Do your research to double check that the travel company is legitimate. Ask them to provide their full name and the company’s name, address, phone number, website address and email. Then, do an internet search of the company name followed by “scam” or “complaint.”

Stop! Don’t send — Scammers will try to steal your money by rushing you into paying with unconventional payment methods like gift cards or wire transfers. If they insist you send payment in the form of gift cards or by wire transfer, it’s a scam.

Take 5 Steps for Better Online Security

Along with making sure you follow the three golden rules to spot a scam, it’s important to strengthen your online security to help avoid all types of online scams. Take action to improve your digital posture by following these steps:

  1. Implement Multi Factor Authentication (MFA): Passwords are generally easy for scammers to crack, and even if you use strong passphrases, there’s still the possibility that a cybercriminal can obtain your passphrase in a data breach. Implementing MFA is a great way to maximize your security and ensure that you are the only one who can gain access to your accounts. MFA should be implemented on all accounts where it is available. Check your account’s security settings to see if it is something you can set up.
  2. Update Your Privacy Settings: Privacy settings allow you to control your personal information (name, address, phone number, date of birth, financial details, photos or videos, etc) and how that information is used. Review your privacy settings on all of your accounts including your social media accounts. Consider restricting who can see your friends list, contacts, photos and posts.
  3. Activate Automatic Updates: Automatic updates are a set of changes to an app, software or operating system that are automatically pushed by the developer to fix or improve it. Oftentimes, cybercriminals take advantage of security flaws to plant malicious software on your devices. By activating automatic updates, you will automatically patch security vulnerabilities to protect your data.
  4. Create Strong Passphrases: A strong passphrase is a string of unrelated words separated by hyphen, space, period, capitalized first letter or number. Use passphrases that are longer than 15 characters and include multiple words that do not have any obvious connection between them. The key to passphrases is randomness. Don’t repeat your passphrases between accounts and consider using a password manager to help you remember.
  5. Learn the Elements of a Phishing Attempt: Familiarize yourself with the elements of a phishing email. Phishing emails tend to include a sense of urgency and multiple grammar and spelling errors. If they are asking you to reveal personal information, be suspicious. If you get a strange email, try contacting the company another way to confirm they sent that email. If the email is suspicious, mark it as spam.

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Without Fightcybercrime.org, I don't know if I would have been able to react as quickly to protect my personal information.
Mary - Indianapolis, IN

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