KIM KOMANDO

Escaping the Arizona heat? Beware of scammers when trying to book flights

Jul 16, 2023, 5:45 AM

New plane ticket scam robs people who want to take vacations...

(Pexels photo)

(Pexels photo)

Buying a plane ticket for a late summer or fall trip? Watch out for fake travel agents trying to trick you with nonexistent tickets. This new plane ticket scam is a tasty trick that goes after you when you’re trying to get a much-earned break from this sizzling summer heatwave.

How the plane ticket scam works

You search for tickets online or reply to a scam email. Overwhelmed by all the travel sites and apps, you choose what seems like a trustworthy source with killer prices.

You may end up emailing, chatting or talking to someone who promises they can get you a great rate on a ticket. You hand over your name, phone number and payment details. Using your information, they book what you think is a confirmed seat and say you’re good to go.

You, the savvy shopper, go to the airline’s website and enter the flight information. You see your seat, pat yourself on the back for saving money and consider your travel booked.

Then comes the surprise. You check-in for your flight, but your ticket is nowhere to be found. That’s because the scammer reserved a seat instead of actually booking a ticket. At this point, the airline can’t do anything for you.

Hopefully, you find this out long before you’re standing at an airport customer service counter, suitcase in hand! Either way, you’re out the money and the airline ticket.

How do you protect yourself from nasty travel scams?

Make this your new mantra: “If a deal seems too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.”

– Don’t pay until you see a confirmation number or e-ticket number. Anything else could just be a reservation, and that’s not a confirmed ticket.

– Book directly from the airline’s website to be extra safe. You may not get the lowest price, but hey, at least you can get frequent flyer points.

– If you’re worried about a ticket, talk directly to the airline’s customer service department. Don’t call the travel agency booking site. Make sure the ticket is confirmed, not just reserved.

Still writing checks? There’s a very good reason you should stop.

How to spot fake travel sites

This is far from the only scam in town. Crooks are great at creating fake apps and sites to rip you off. Fortunately, there are signs to watch for that can help to avoid them.

– Check official resources: The Better Business Bureau is a great place to start. The agency lists real companies; if you can’t find the one you’re working with, walk away.

– Online reviews and ratings: Read online reviews and ratings on sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp or Google. Keep in mind that extremely positive and negative reviews could be bogus. Watch for a balance of reviews and consistent themes.

– Accreditation and licensing: Many legitimate travel agencies are members of recognized industry organizations like the American Society of Travel Advisors or have International Air Transport Association accreditation. Check for credentials on their site.

– Transparent pricing: Legitimate sites are clear and upfront about all costs. Beware of sites that have hidden fees or don’t clearly explain what you’re paying for and why.

– Secure payment options: Reputable travel sites use secure, well-known payment options. Be wary of sites that only allow bank transfers or money orders. A relatively new red flag is if a company only accepts cryptocurrency as payment. Don’t do it!

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Escaping the Arizona heat? Beware of scammers when trying to book flights