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Avoiding Traveling Agency Scams and Other Common Travel Frauds

Ecommerce has brought about a substantial amount of opportunities for businesses and consumers, but they go side by side with new threats. As technologies advance, so do the techniques of online fraud. To name a few, fake traveling agency scams, payments made with stolen credit cards, and fraudulent ticket cancellations are some examples of digital fraud that have been spiking in recent years. 

According to research from IBM, the second-most targeted sector for cybercriminals is traveling and transportation. Each year, fraudulent digital activities cost huge losses to the industry, with increasing operational expenses, brand damage, and other indirect costs. 

Fortunately, travel businesses and enthusiasts can safeguard themselves with advanced online fraud prevention methods without compromising their experiences. Let’s take a look at some of the most common traveling scams along with fraud prevention techniques.

Common Travel Frauds

The techniques that fraudsters use for extracting money and sensitive information from travelers and businesses include, but are not confined to:

1. Traveling Agency Scams

In a traveling agency scam, fraudsters utilize travel images stolen from the internet to advertise their destinations. They build fake travel companies for a few months, attracting hundreds of eager tourists who pay for plane tickets online in advance and then shut down the fake business.

By designing professional websites of high quality, fraudsters make it difficult for travelers to differentiate between a real business and a fake one. They then continue to purchase Google AdWords and Facebook ads to make their fake travel agency look legitimate all over the web.

Another type of traveling agency scam is where fraudsters build duplicate websites of existing authentic travel agencies to trick travelers. They use the legitimate travel agency’s logo and offer travel packages, tempting the victims into filling out an online form with their sensitive information, such as their credit card numbers which are charged right away.

2. Fake or Stolen Credit Cards

A financial scam generally initiated by obtaining a customer’s credit card number and their PII (Personally Identifiable Information). In 2018, identity theft was the third-most occurring type of fraud in the U.S, where 15% of the total 3 million fraud cases reported were about identity theft according to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission).

Fraudsters steal cardholders’ sensitive credentials through data breaches, credit card skimming, or fraudulent programs and malware installed on authentic websites. Once the credit card details are obtained, the data ends up in the black market, where other fraudsters buy them to carry out numerous online purchase frauds.

3. Ticket Cancellations

Another use fraudsters make from stealing credit card data is to buy refundable tickets. Once these tickets are bought online, they then call to cancel and receive cash in return in the form of a refund. Apart from receiving unauthorized cash this way, they also earn airline bonuses even if the ticket is canceled. These bonuses can be resold to others or used by the fraudster to buy legitimate tickets for another flight.

Avoiding Travel Scams

Generally, authentic travel agencies invest in third-party identity verification services to safeguard themselves from incurring losses arising from doctored ID documents or stolen ID or credit card credentials. Here’s how fraudsters are weeded out by digital identity verification solutions through an ID card or passport check process online:

Step One

The end-user is asked to take a picture of or upload an official ID document in real-time. Examples of valid ID documents include a government-issued ID card, passport, recent utility bill, bank account statement, rent agreement, etc. 

Step Two

The identity verification solutions automatically extract information from the ID document, usually through OCR technology.

Step Three

The type and format of the ID document are verified along with the cardholder within seconds. In case the document provided does not belong to the end-user, the AI-powered software can immediately detect it, deny access to the end-user and inform the concerned party to carry out further investigation. 

Apart from travel companies,  travelers also need to stay vigilant when booking accommodations and airline tickets online. Here are some questions to consider to avoid being a victim of fake traveling agency scams:

  • Does the website provide contact details?
  • Does the company have a physical office at an authentic address?
  • Does their official website have any testimonials and reviews from other travelers?
  • Does the site have any social media presence?
  • Does the company have any verifiable travel license certification?
  • Does the company provide any original “about us” photos?
  • Are there any links to pages that don’t exist online?

Bottom Line

As online fraudsters are changing their efforts, travel companies need to respond by performing an ongoing fraud prevention approach that automatically analyzes travelers and the documents provided. This way, not only can travelers be provided with a safe journey but travel companies can also safeguard themselves from cybercriminals and their malicious activities. 

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