I’m planning a trip. How can I safely book travel over the internet?
Always use a reputable website when booking travel online. Do not click on pop-ups or sidebar ads that try to lure you to other attractive travel deals. These are often attempts to install malware on your computer. Be wary of high-pressure sales tactics or requests for unusual information on a travel website. These could be warning signs that the site is collecting data for purposes ofdebit/credit card fraud or even identity theft.
Before entering any personal or financial information into a website, always check that the URL says HTTPS (S=secure). (Example: https://www.redwoodcu.org) NEVER enter your Social Security number! If a website is asking for that information, consider it a red flag – cancel the form and do not enter any more information.
Transportation and Lodging:
One of the most popular travel scams is when fraudsters rent out properties that they do not own. Don’t be wooed by the beautiful photography of the location: if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Fraudsters will pick out legitimate properties with images available online and will create an ad and offer the listing at well below its actual value. Once they have tempted their victim they begin placing pressure to book quickly. Avoid listings that demand payment by Western Union, Moneygram, or (most commonly) wire transfer. Be your own investigator. Perform internet searches on all involved parties and scrutinize contact information. Read all reviews on the property. And contact the website for follow-up information on the person who created the listing. They can tell you how new the person is to the website. The newer the listing/person is to the website, the more risk that this is a scam. Be skeptical of unbelieveable deals and always trust your instincts. This will make it easier to identify red flags.
When possible, book directly through hotels, airlines, and reputable travel sites or agencies. Don’t rush the process. Take time to research the travel deal prior to booking. There are countless ways to fall victim to a scam when booking travel. Providing payment information to a fake company is a very prominent scam which not only puts your credit/debit card/account number at risk for fraud, but the fraudster could charge you for a reservation at a real location with which they have no actual affiliation. This means you could pay the money to the fake company and get to your destination and have nowhere to stay because the owner or innkeeper never received payment or the reservation from you.