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Amidst Travel Challenges, Online Scammers Seize Opportunities

by Holly

Alisdair Faulkner, CEO of software firm Darwinium, Shares Insights on Safeguarding Against Scammers Exploiting Flight Disruptions

The resurgence of the travel and tourism sectors following the pandemic has breathed new life into the industry. Despite a global expenditure exceeding 2.2 trillion dollars, the journey hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing. As travel expenditures surge, so do instances of travel-related online fraud. Action Fraud, the UK’s central hub for reporting cybercrime and fraud, recorded 4,244 instances of holiday and travel-related fraud in the fiscal year 2021-22. Shockingly, these fraudulent activities resulted in over £15 million being swindled from UK consumers.

Experts entrenched in the battle against fraud are aware that these figures belie the true scale of the issue due to underreporting. According to McAfee Corp, a significant 30% of adults have either personally fallen prey or know individuals who have succumbed to online scams while seeking travel savings. Of those targeted, 34% experienced losses exceeding $1,000 even before their journeys commenced, while 66% suffered losses of up to $1,000.

Undoubtedly, scams remain a persistent menace in the realm of online fraud. As companies concentrate on thwarting automated bot attacks, identity theft, and identifying stolen or falsified identities, malevolent actors have shifted their focus to a softer target – the customers themselves.

Typically, online scams involve manipulative tactics, deception, or coercion to trick customers into actions with unintended repercussions. Within the realm of travel-related scams, common schemes encompass counterfeit websites enticing unsuspecting customers to book non-existent vacations, act upon fabricated reviews, or make payments funneled into the pockets of fraudsters.

These fraudulent activities often consist of multifaceted components, encompassing:

Listing and Content Deception: Involving counterfeit websites, property listings, or reviews. Red flags include assessing the legitimacy of the brand, scrutinizing property location details, and critically evaluating the reviews. Employing advanced online fraud detection tools that compare images and content can also raise alarms regarding image or text reuse, thereby alerting trusted platforms to potential fraud.

Social Engineering: Following the initial engagement, fraudsters endeavor to redirect victims away from secure payment platforms and coerce them into making direct payments to the fraudsters’ bank accounts. Vigilance is essential when directed away from trusted payment processes or asked to deposit funds directly into private accounts.

Biased or Fabricated Reviews: A less insidious yet impactful scam wherein property or hotel owners incentivize positive reviews in exchange for perks. Such manipulation erodes the trustworthiness of reviews.

Even those who consider themselves savvy travelers can benefit from sustained vigilance. Frequent fliers have grappled with systemic delays due to weather or a persistent scarcity of air traffic controllers, a challenge projected to intensify. Enduring the discomfort of extended airport stays can impair judgment.

Imagine an individual stranded at the airport for hours, only to learn at 11 p.m. that their flight stands canceled, necessitating an urgent search for accommodation. Such scenarios, apart from their unpleasantness, heighten the vulnerability of even the shrewdest traveler to hasty or unwise decisions in selecting lodgings. And as we know all too well, a single click can translate to financial loss.

Hence, a word of caution to travelers: double-check before you click. And to e-commerce and travel entities: uphold your customers’ interests. It’s one thing to proclaim trustworthiness, yet true testament comes from actively mitigating the risk of fraud victimization. Demonstrating this commitment fosters enduring customer relationships. For a comprehensive understanding and advice on preventing travel-related fraud, we encourage you to refer to resources such as the Abta and Action Fraud websites.

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