Beware of these online trip-related frauds, before, during and after your trip.
Delayed or cancelled flights have been a major problem for travelers so far in 2023, and the fraudsters are taking advantage.
Now that X-formerly-Twitter has started charging for verifying accounts, there’s less way to know whether you are reaching a legitimate source or a scammer.
These travel scams are making the rounds right now, according to internet security company Malwarebytes.
Fake Customer Support on Social Media
For anyone getting ready to make the trip, or already stuck in an airport with a delayed or canelled flight, the first reaction likely is to hop onto social media for breaking advice and information, including access to your bank account to pay for a new ticket.
That’s why so many social media scams are aimed at airline and banking customers looking for assistance.
The risk of this has increased since X-formerly-Twitter started charging for blue checkmarks. And even paying customers with legitimate accounts now sport no longer have visible means of authentication.
With recent weather-related cancellations and delays stranding thousands, fraudsters have been busy creating fake support accounts.
Bogus airline accounts are directing potential victims to fake airline websites and other portals in an effort to steal credentials, and most likely any payment data they can scoop up along the way.
For example, according to Malwarwebytes, there’s around 100+ X-formerly-Twitter accounts using the easyJet branding.
Of those, at least two have a gold verified check mark which are used exclusively for approved business accounts. Here’s the main easyJet account.
The rest are a combination of “temporarily restricted” accounts, accounts set to private (and so not visible to non-followers), private individuals, video game themed(!), and more.
Many of the accounts claim to be customer support and ask Twitter users to send them their mobile number for assistance.
If you’re not talking to the verified account, or directed somewhere by that account, you may end up running into trouble.
Scammers also have been taking advantage of Phoenix-area residents trying to dodge some of the Arizona heat.
Beware of Phony Travel Agents
Phony travel agents lie in wait with fake websites and non-existent plane tickets. These sites appear in search engine results or random emails promising fantastic prices.
Once you’ve paid and turned up on the day of the flight, or even just tried to check in online the day before, you’re in for a nasty surprise.
The fraudster has merely reserved a seat, as opposed to booking the desired ticket.
Meanwhile, they were off using your payment details to try and buy who knows what.
If you stumble upon a site you’ve not heard of, look up reviews and keep an eye out for any reference to wrong doing.
Anything that is mostly gold star “5” reviews with one or two “1” review and nothing in between is a neon sign the site is a fraud.
Beware of Direct Payment Apps
Direct payment apps like Paypal, Venmo and Zelle are being used increasingly by scammers to steal your money, your identity, or both, by impersonating banks and other well-known companies, including airlines.
If you are directed to pay to one of these third-party sources, run the other way.
You won’t be able to get your money back, so avoid becoming a direct payment scam victim.
Be Careful What You Post Online
A final warning: be careful what you post online.
Never post photographs of your home environment can reveal important information to burglars.
Never post anything with your name and address, which can be geolocated via traceable landmarks.
Never post mages of your airplane tickets, which have coding that the bad guys can use to determine your identity, including your frequent flyer number.
This isn’t even necessarily to steal your banking data. Often, the goal is to access your account under the guise of you having “forgotten” your login details.
Maybe they just steal your accumulated points. Maybe they’ll wait a few months and then send a targeted phish. Or, maybe they’ll steal your banking data.
If you’ve been scammed by a travel-related fraud, let us know.
ecoXplorer Evelyn Kanter is a journalist with 20+ years of experience as a newspaper and magazine writer, radio & TV news producer & reporter, and author of guidebooks and smartphone apps – all focusing on travel, automotive, the environment and your rights as a consumer.
ecoXplorer Evelyn Kanter currently serves as President of the International Motor Press Assn. (IMPA), is a former Board Member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and a current member of the North American Travel Journalists Assn. (NATJA).
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright (C) Evelyn Kanter