Airfare scams profit from canceled flights
Air travel is in full swing, but scammers are taking advantage of rising flight cancellations with a new scam. BBB Scam Tracker has received multiple reports of scammers creating fake airline ticket booking sites or customer service numbers to charge travelers for rescheduling bogus flights. If you’re buying a plane ticket, be careful and check the URL or phone number before providing your credit card information.
How the scam works
Doing a search online for cheap flights, you come across what looks like a great deal with a major airline. You book the flight, either through the website or by calling a customer support number. But shortly after making the payment, you receive a call from the company that there has been a sudden increase in price or additional charges to complete your booking. This is something a legitimate business would never do! It turns out that you accidentally bought tickets through a fraudulent website or a fake customer service number. Raising prices is a way to get more money from you.
In another similar scam, your original flight was real, but the cancellation notice is fake. You receive an e-mail or an SMS indicating that your next flight has been canceled and that you must rebook. When you call the number provided, the “airline” offers to rebook you a new ticket – for a price. However, if you follow up with real air assistance, you will find that everything was wrong with your original flight. The message was a scam and you just gave your credit card details to a scammer.
One victim told BBB Scam Tracker, “I thought I had purchased plane tickets with United Airlines through a company that sells at a discount. They called me shortly after buying my tickets and told me the flight had been cancelled. They wanted permission to put me on another flight with Southwest and said it would be $80 more… Turns out United Airlines has never canceled a flight. I tried calling this company and leaving a message, and tried emailing them to no avail. It turns out that the airlines were unaware of this ticket purchase.
How to avoid travel scams
- Do your research. If you come across a company you’ve never done business with before, research it before you shop. Look to BBB.org for reviews and comments from previous customers.
- Check flight details before calling for assistance. Scammers spread fake airline cancellation emails and text messages that can easily be mistaken for the real deal. Check that the information in the message, such as flight and reservation numbers, is correct before calling customer service.
- Confirm the URL before entering personal and payment information. It can be easy to click on a sponsored ad or an impostor website without noticing. Before entering sensitive information, verify that you are on the correct website and that the link is secure. (Secure links begin with “HTTPS//” and include a lock icon on the purchase page. Learn more at BBB.org/BBBSecure.)
- Beware of third-party websites. Some websites seem to offer a legitimate service but are just fronts for a scam. Beware of websites without a customer service number or physical address. Typos and grammatical errors can be indications of a scammer’s handiwork.
- Shop online with your credit card. Fraudulent charges to a credit card can usually be disputed, while this may not be the case with other payment methods. Unfortunately, there is no way to recover any personal information you may have shared.
To learn how to protect yourself from travel scams, go to BBB.org/Travel. Learn more about customer service number scams. If you have been the victim of an airline ticket or other travel scam, please report your experience at BBB.org/ScamTracker. By doing so, you can help others avoid falling prey to scammers.
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