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Highway robbery? (500% spike in travel fraud reported)

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Bonnie R. is a rewards member of a popular airline. She has a credit card she got through the airline to rack up miles for her spending.

She had recently been diagnosed with cancer and was saving up her points to travel during the holidays with her family.

But Bonnie soon realized that all her reward miles were gone.

Someone hacked into her account and changed her personal information including her address.

She immediately contacted the airline.

They told her she needed to file a fraud report and told her to change her password and that she would be contacted in about ten days.

But by that time someone had used her points to obtain an airline ticket. Bonnie even received emails confirming the use of the points.

She contacted the airline to prevent the use of the airline miles but was told that it was being investigated by the fraud department.

In the end, the airline said there was nothing they could do to restore the miles that Bonnie had earned.

She contacted her bank and the airlines to cancel her account. She said it wasn’t worth using the card if the miles she earned could be stolen so easily.

During the pandemic, there was a 500% increase in airline-related cybercrime. Sadly, Bonnie is one of many victims of travel-related crime.

When it comes to travel and hospitality there are a lot of opportunities for scams and fraud.

Travel fraud can come in many different forms. From emails and calls to advertisements offering free vacations. Criminals are taking advantage of this.

With that in mind, here are a few things to look out for that could be a sign of a travel-related scam.

Free Vacations:

Scammers love to offer free vacations. They will often call or email to say that you have won a trip.

Yet, even if parts of the vacation are free, such as the hotel stay, chances are there are fees that you will be paying.

Even if the vacation was free there would still be taxes and fees. These could add up to thousands of dollars.

My point is that the chances of a “free vacation” being legitimate are slim.

Get the details:

Whether you are working with a travel agent or planning your own trip, you want to get all the details.

What I mean is, if the travel agent says you will be staying at a five-star resort, ask them for the details.

For instance, you want to know the name of the resort, the address, the contact info, and anything else you need to know before booking your stay.

Another scam is when a fraudster will try to book you a trip on a “luxury” cruise ship.

Again, ask for the details.

You want to know everything there is to know about the cruise ship (you don’t want to end up on the S.S. Minnow).

If the travel agent or company cannot provide any of these details, then you should walk away. It’s likely a scam if they don’t know this information.

Pressure:

A travel agent or someone offering a trip are salespeople. Their job is to book travelers.

But, if they become overly pushy, it could be a scam.

Scammers will try to pressure people into making a quick decision about a trip.

If someone tells you that the vacation package will expire if you don’t book it, then it’s likely a fraud.

This is also true when you are booking extra excursions when traveling.

For instance, if you are taking a cruise but want to plan a sightseeing tour at one of the stops, avoid any companies that try to pressure you.

If they are forcing you to make a decision it could mean it’s a scam.

When traveling, do plenty of research on the hotels and companies you will be doing business with.

Also, don’t sign any agreements or make any payments until you have received written terms for what you are agreeing to.

Always get a copy of the cancellation and refund policies before you make a decision.

And say “no thanks” if you think something doesn’t sound right or if the trip is too good to be true.

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