Common scams to be aware of when traveling. Such as the taxi and souvenir scam. Buzz60’s Taisha Henry Henry has the story.
If you’re trying to squeeze in one last bit of summer, take extra care when trying to book any flights online. Yes, you could lose big money — and add to your travel headaches — if you get tricked by a website that’s impersonating Delta Air Lines or another big name.
One Michigan young family almost lost $300 when they tried to re-book a flight to Japan on what looked like a Delta website.
It’s a good warning, as summer travel is packed with flight delays and other mishaps.
Naomi Poel, 33, and her husband Hunter Pulaski, who live in Ada Township in Michigan, were planning to take their 2-year old daughter Holley Poel to visit family in Japan. The family was already at their in-laws house, which is close to the airport, when they were alerted that their 10:15 a.m. flight that day would be delayed.
“We’re traveling with a 2-year-old, so we were panicking,” Naomi said in a phone interview.
They worried that one delay on the existing flight would cause them to miss a connecting flight. And what would happen if the family couldn’t sit together? Could the 2-year-old somehow end up in a row by herself?
So they started Googling for a solution.
“Unfortunately, doing a Google search is not always going to get you a good result,” said Troy Baker, manager of communications for the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan.
Mimicking big brands
The first thing that popped up in their online search was for a site that implied it was connected to Delta but it wasn’t.
Like a lot of things, plenty of online sites are mimicking big brand names to try to gain your trust when it comes to travel.
“You have to be very careful when clicking online advertisements. It’s very easy for a scammer to impersonate a legitimate business. Instead of clicking the link, go to the business directly to purchase tickets,” said Laura Blankenship, director of marketing for the Better Business Bureau serving Eastern Michigan.
You might run into a fake airline, a less-than-upfront travel agent or another phony site when you’re trying to book a quick trip. Take time to know who you’re really dealing with before giving any personal information or making any payments. That’s true even if you get an email out of the blue that appears legitimate.
Baker said the website that imitated Delta did look like the real deal with the first words on the site saying: “We, at Delta Air Lines.”
Yet, Baker said, there were some red flags. The site used a picture of an airplane without a Delta logo. Really?
And then, there was the wording at the bottom in the “About Us” section. Somehow as they explained the company’s story, the website started using lyrics from “The Brady Bunch” and “Laverne & Shirley” TV theme songs. One part even said: “That’s the way we all became the Brady Bunch.”
“As a consumer, if I saw that I would run,” Baker said.
Tricking Hollywood stars
Even so, Baker said scammers are using just enough of the correct wording to trick someone in rush.
The actor James McAvoy, for example, admitted in October 2018 that he was almost scammed out of nearly $13,000 when planning a family vacation to Spain. He had attempted to book a trip to The Ritz-Carlton but the website wasn’t the real hotel site.
Baker noted that one way McAvoy avoided the scam was by stopping in his tracks when he was asked to send personal data, such as a picture of his passport, for the hotel booking.
“This can happen to absolutely everybody, even this big Hollywood star,” Baker said.
Consumers are advised to take their time. Read a large amount of any fine print. Don’t rush to give any money. Pay with a credit card instead of a debit card when possible, as credit cards offer consumers more protections.
And stay far away from any agent or travel site that demands you pay for any service or travel expenses with gift cards.
“Fraud is rapidly increasing in the travel industry and the chance you may land on a fake airline or travel agent website is unfortunately real,” according to the International Air Transport Association.
Websites often look professional and may display some sorts of logos, such as a fake IATA logo. The IATA site even has a code checking tool to help you spot a fake travel agent.
“Any time you deal with a third party website claiming to represent Delta Air Lines, you risk compromising your personal information, as scammers are more frequently attempting to abuse the trust you place in us by impersonating Delta using illegitimate websites and outlets before defrauding you,” Delta said in online alert.
Delta would have rebooked for free
Naomi Poel said said the family found the impostor site when it showed up at that top of a Google search. But they saved their money because they kept fuming that they were going to have to pay an extra $300 and going to have to wait to travel until the next day.
“We still thought we were dealing with Delta. So we were super angry with Delta,” she said.
The family later went to the airport that day and headed directly to the Delta desk.
When they spoke with someone at Delta, they learned the site they thought was Delta was actually a third party company. She said Delta called and later worked with that third party to get a refund for the $300 service fee that had been on the couple’s credit card. Agents with the real Delta Airlines told the family the airline would have re-booked their tickets for free.
“I don’t want this to happen to anybody else,” Poel, a grade school art teacher initially told WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids.
Many times, consumers aren’t so lucky to get their money back.
“We’re seeing a lot more of this type of thing,” Baker warned. “A typical scammer isn’t going to give you that refund.”
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/airline-news/2019/08/05/fake-travel-sites-scam-consumers/1923184001/