From all indications, the 2021 holiday season will be busy as millions of newly vaccinated Americans who have been locked in their homes for months book travel.
But in the search for the best rate and the best hotel rate, consumers should be careful when booking and paying for their trips. Scammers have reportedly started bogus booking sites, and some of these bogus sites show up in search engines.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports its Scam tracker The website started receiving accounts from angry consumers who got scammed thinking they had booked a vacation. In at least one case, criminals have created a website that appears to sell airline tickets.
The flights are real, but the prices are not. Attracted by what appears to be a good deal, consumers enter their credit card information and receive a confirmation message. A closer look, however, shows that there is no ticket attached.
Some consumers have reported a slightly different twist. After booking a flight on the bogus travel site, they get a call from “customer service” saying there was a price increase on the flight and they have to pay more. This should be a wake-up call, because a legitimate business wouldn’t.
In many cases, consumers who purchased tickets from one of these sites called the airline directly to learn that the carrier had no record of their booking or payment.
The lesson for travelers is clear: Be careful when booking travel and make sure you are dealing with a legitimate entity. There are several ways to do this.
What has to be done
First, if you book through a third-party site like Priceline or Expedia, make sure it’s a business you’re familiar with. Better yet, book through a company you’ve used in the past with good results.
If in doubt, consult the company on ConsumerAffairs. Our reviews are checked to make sure they are real. You will find thousands of reviews on the best travel sites here.
Look carefully at the website URL before entering any personal and payment information. It can be easy to click on a sponsored ad or impostor website without noticing.
Beware of websites without a working customer service number and without a physical address. Typos and grammatical errors can also be indications of a crook’s work.
When booking travel, use your credit card, not your debit card. Fraudulent charges made on a credit card can generally be disputed and losses are limited by law.