Planning on scoring a sweet deal on your next vacation?
Before you rush into booking your next flight, you might want to do a little research first.
As travel restrictions are eased across B.C. and Canada, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns that scammers will look for opportunities to take advantage of eager travellers.
The BBB says it has received reports on BBB Scam Tracker about con artists using fake flight booking sites or customer service numbers to deceive consumers. If you are booking a flight, use caution and double-check the URL or phone number before providing any information, explains a news release.
How does the scam work?
See a deal that is too good to be true? It just might be.
After searching for cheap flights, an individual could book what they think is a "great deal" with a reputable airline. And when they book that flight —either through the website or customer support number they found—they'll receive a confirmation message.
But when they look closely at the email, they notice that they don't have a ticket—and they can't connect with anyone to sort out the issue afterwards, either.
The BBB says that in many of the reports, "consumers shared that the travel itinerary details, boarding passes and the usual links that allow travellers to check-in, change or cancel the flight were missing." Travellers who were trying to make changes to existing flights also stumbled into "phony websites and contact numbers."
In another version of this scam, you book a flight on a travel website offering deals on airfare and pay with your credit card. However, shortly afterwards, you receive a call from the company saying that there has been a sudden price increase or an extra charge to finalize your booking. This is something a legitimate company would never do.
In either case, you eventually connect with a legitimate customer service agent for the airline and find out that they have no record of your booking. It turns out you accidentally purchased tickets through a scam website or a phony customer service number.
People think they are speaking to the airline directly
BBB spokesperson Karla Laird told Vancouver Is Awesome that consumers are convinced they are speaking to a legitimate travel agent with an airline.
"That's the concerning part for me," she said.
"It doesn't take them to [the airline]...it takes them to this fraudster who walks them through all these details that suggest that they're either making adjustments to a flight that has already been booked or booking a new flight altogether."
The information scammers collect includes personal information and credit card details, she said. People have been scammed out of hundreds of dollars.
A victim told the BBB that they "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."
How to Avoid Flight Booking Scams
The BBB has provided the following tips to avoid flight scams in the future.
Do your research. If you come across a company you have not dealt with before, research it before making any purchases. Look on BBB.org for reviews and feedback from previous customers.
Be wary of customer service numbers found online. If possible, go directly to the airline or travel agency’s website for details to contact customer service. If you have purchased a flight from them before, check your email for the last messages you received, which should include their contact information.
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.
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. Typos and grammatical errors can also be indications of a scammer’s handiwork.
- 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.