With more widespread vaccinations and relaxed travel restrictions, many people are making long-awaited vacation plans.
But scammers are making plans of their own to cheat eager travelers of their money via too-good-to-be-true vacation packages, fake airfare deals and other shady schemes.
Global consumer advocacy organizations are issuing warnings about an increase in incidents involving scammers who often pose as airline ticket brokers and travel agents via telemarketing calls. Another common tactic is imposter or “spoofed” websites that mimic legitimate booking platforms for airfare, hotels or rental cars but do not deliver the product as promised.
Scams are surging
These kinds of scams are surging as leisure travel re-emerges and are likely to remain a hassle for the near future. According to data from RoboKiller, a spam call and text blocker app, the estimated number of automated, unsolicited telemarketing calls (or robocalls) with a travel focus, like promising a free hotel stay or a deeply discounted booking, will grow to a staggering 4.9 billion in 2021, representing an 80 percent increase from last year.
Spam texts promising a free cruise or other vacation deal also are on the rise, with RoboKiller projecting 2.25 billion travel-related messages sent in 2021, a 300 percent increase from last year.
Why are people falling for it?
A factor likely playing a role in the current increase of travel scams is that many consumers are still looking for a very high discount on airfare, hotel rooms and rental cars that were commonplace during the pandemic.
But now that demand is back, prices have rebounded, especially in the car rental industry, where widespread shortages have spiked rates in many markets. As a result, many consumers, still determined to get a deal, explore alternate or unfamiliar companies they would normally overlook, creating the chance for scammers to swoop in with deals and offers that seem too good to give up.
Moreover, we have all been holed up inside the homes for too long due to the pandemic and the thought of a vacation can get very exciting making us vulnerable to never-like-before-deals and offers.
Tech savvy scammers
Scammers have become increasingly tech-savvy as well. In addition to “spoofing” official websites with fraudulent ones, they’re acutely aware of consumers’ purchasing patterns and how to create ads or sponsored links that pop up during a web search for keywords like “cheap car rentals” along with a desired destination.
Keep yourselves safe from them
On an individual level, you can take several steps to keep these scammers at bay, like:
- Research any company that sounds unfamiliar before making any purchases.
- Pay particular attention to the URL, making sure it’s correct before entering any personal or payment information, as it can be easy to click on a sponsored ad or a spoofed website without noticing.
- Remember that something as seemingly harmless as sharing your phone number or email address on a web form can put you on the radar of scammers, who are known to share contact information of possible targets.
- When you do book that trip, be sure to use a credit card instead of a prepaid gift or debit card, cryptocurrency or wire transfer, as most credit card companies can help fight fraudulent charges.
- And finally, don’t expect the scammers to go away anytime soon. So, its best to be on constant alert.