With the availability of COVID-19 vaccines, travel is coming back! That’s great news for summer vacation plans … and scammers. BBB Scam Tracker is receiving reports of con artists creating fake airline ticket booking sites or customer service numbers. If you are buying airfare, use caution and 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 more closely at the email, you notice that you never actually received your ticket.
In another version of this scam, you book a flight on a travel website offering deals on airfare. You pay with your credit card like normal. But shortly after making the payment, you receive a call from the company saying that there’s 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 call the airline to follow up about your flight. After talking to an agent, you find 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. One victim told BBB Scam Tracker: “I received a phone call right after [I booked 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 purchases. 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, check out this tip from BBB. For ways to protect yourself from travel scams, go to BBB.org/TravelScam. Read more about customer service number scams.
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. By doing so you can help others to avoid falling prey to scammers.
About the Better Business Bureau
The Better Business Bureau is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands, and charities they can trust. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. There are more than 100 local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. BBB of Northeast California was founded in 1937 and serves 24 counties throughout the region. Visit bbb.org for more information.