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How to Avoid Scams When Booking Holiday Travel This Year

Booking holiday travel usually means watching vigilantly for the lowest-possible fares of the busy season, but it turns out this should also be a time to look out for travel scams. As the holidays bring an uptick in online purchases like travel booking, the risk of online fraud rises as well, online travel fraud prevention company Forter reports. A new report by the company found that e-commerce fraud rose 13 percent in 2017, with travel-related fraud specifically rising 37 percent—and holiday travel scams comprising a large part of it.

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Most notably for air travelers, in addition to those high attack rates on online travel agencies (OTAs) there have also been several recent data breaches at major airlines, including Cathay Pacific and Air Canada. Forter highlights three primary methods scammers might use to defraud people booking travel:

  • Account Takeover: When someone uses personal information (such as a password) to hack into pre-existing travel accounts and steal additional financial details.
  • URL-Jacking: When fraudsters use URLs, often linked in confirmation emails when travelers complete a booking, to see, extract and even change the personal information the customer provided.
  • Fake Sites: When bad actors set up fake online and mobile sites that look like legitimate travel agencies, accept fake bookings from real customers, and complete the bookings elsewhere using stolen financials so that the individual never discovers that their sensitive information has been compromised.

What Can You Do to Avoid Holiday Travel Scams?

Data security company Norton has some good tips for avoiding these kinds of scams. According to their data, a whopping 15 million hotel reservations are made on fake third-party websites each year. And that’s just hotels! There’s plenty of fraudulent air, tour, and rentals activity going on, too.

Here are some simple guidelines to help minimize your risk exposure to a holiday travel scam:

  • Only book on the official website of a hotel, airline, etc., or use a reputable, well-known third-party booking site you trust. And always, always look for ‘HTTPS’ in the site’s URL address: This indicates you’re on the real, secure site for the provider you’re using, and not a fake version of it.
  • If you find a good deal on a third-party site you’ve never used before, do some research before handing over your credit card number. Check the Better Business Bureau, look for user reviews of the service, and ask friends and family if they’ve ever used the provider.
  • Always book with a credit card, not a debit card. If you don’t have a credit card, it’s high time you get one. Using a debit card could give criminals access to your account info, and credit cards typically offer better fraud protection than debit cards. With a debit card, the money is gone as soon as it’s spent, so you may very well never see it again. But credit cards by nature allow you or your bank to place a hold on a transaction to investigate a charge.
  • Call directly to confirm your reservation after you’ve made it. If the hotel you thought you just booked has no record of your booking, then you have a problem. And it’s better to find that out before you arrive.
  • Never give out your credit card info a second time without ensuring the initial charge wasn’t made. If you make a booking and then get an immediate call or email asking for your card info again, decline and call the provider directly yourself to be sure it isn’t attempted fraud.

Are you booking holiday travel with a trusted source, or have you tried something new to get a deal? Comment below.

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By Carl Unger

Contributing Editor Carl Unger believes that every trip is worth taking. He loves an extended trip to Europe as much as he enjoys exploring the towns and landscape near home. Basically, you'll find him wherever there is good food, fresh air, and plenty of stories to bring home.

Carl has been writing for SmarterTravel since 2005. His travel writing has also appeared on USA Today and the About.com Boston travel guide.

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