The online travel scam that consumers need to be aware of 

As more people get their Covid-19 vaccinations, the travel industry is beginning to open again. However, this has resulted in an increase in scammers taking advantage of this development. 

In the last few weeks, air travel bookings have risen for the first time in over a year. But, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), there have also been more cases of criminals creating fake websites to trick travelers into signing up for expedited airline boarding. 

These websites copy existing Trusted Traveler programs, such as Global Entry in the US or NEXUS in Canada. Then, they attempt to gain access to the user’s personal data or, in some cases, take payment for non-existent services.

How does the scam work? 

Many people around the world are having to renew their out-of-date or previously canceled subscriptions to these services. As they go to do this, they usually search for the website on Google, which is where the fake sites are listed. 

Although the genuine website is also listed in the search results, it’s not always at the top. Because of this, some consumers are clicking on the fake version and becoming victims of the scam, which could end up costing them money and parting with sensitive information.  

In the BBB report, it was pointed out that the fraudulent companies are charging consumers for application fees, subscription fees, or service fees, which can be hard to get back. 

Additionally, they request highly sensitive personal information, such as full name, home address, and passport number, which could lead to identity theft.

How can consumers protect themselves? 

To avoid these scams, consumers that are renewing their online services at this time should be extra vigilant before parting with money or personal data. At the moment, search engines aren’t screening links to prevent scams, so it’s important to be careful. 

When searching for a company online, make sure you check the URL to see f it’s a secure link, rather than trusting companies that appear on the search and look legitimate. 

A secure link should start with “https://” and include a lock icon. In the US, any government-backed website should end in .gov, and in Canada, it should have gc.ca. 

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