Watch out for fake airline ticket sites
With the vaccines rolling out, travel is coming back. That’s great news for summer vacation plans — and for scammers. The Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker is receiving reports of con artists who create fake airline ticket booking sites or customer service numbers. If you’re buying airfare, always double check the URL or phone number before providing your credit card information.
How the scam works
While doing an online search for cheap flights, you come across what seems like a great deal with a major airline. You book the flight — either through the website or by calling a customer support number — and receive a confirmation message.
However, when you look closer at the email, you notice that you never actually received your ticket. You were scammed.
In another version of the scam, you book a flight on a travel website offering deals on airfare. You pay with your credit card. But shortly after making the payment, you receive a call from the company saying there’s been a sudden price increase or an extra charge needed to finalize your booking. This is something a legitimate company would never do.
In either case, you should call the airline to follow up about your flight. If after talking to an agent you find that they have no record of your booking, it’s clear that you purchased tickets through a scam website or a phony customer service number.
One victim told BBB Scam Tracker, “I received a phone call right after [booking the flight] stating that they wanted $100 per passenger to finalize my flight.” Then, after calling the airline to complain, the victim discovered that “the flight wasn’t available to begin with. The flight was never booked … this company just charged my card.”
How to avoid travel scams
Do your research. If you come across a company you haven’t dealt with before, research it before making any purchase. Look on BBB.org for reviews and feedback from previous customers.
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. (Secure links start with “https://” and include a lock icon on the purchase page. Learn more at BBB.org/BBBSecure.)
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 be indications of a scammer’s handiwork, too.
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.
For more information
To learn more about planning a getaway during COVID-19, visit bbb.org. For ways to protect yourself from travel scams, go to BBB.org/TravelScam. Stay one step ahead of scammers by subscribing to BBB’s weekly Scam Alert emails.
If you’ve been a victim of an airline ticket or other travel scam, please report your experience at BBB.org/ScamTracker. When you report a scam, you can help others avoid falling prey to scammers.
BBB serving Central Virginia was established in 1954 to advance responsible, honest, and ethical business practices and to promote customer confidence through self-regulation of business. Core services of BBB include business profiles, dispute resolution, truthful advertising, scam warnings, consumer and business education and charity review.