Travel scams have been around for quite some time, but it seems like every time word gets out about a common tactic, a new method of cheating an innocent traveler comes up.
This isn’t to say that vacationers and business travelers don’t have to be on the lookout for older scams like bait-and-switch accommodations or “too good to be true” deals that leave you empty-handed. Instead, it means those old methods of scamming travelers are still out there, but new methods have joined their ranks.
1. Airline Miles Theft
With news of data breaches that attack retailers’ point-of-sale systems (those “swipers” where you slide your card), there’s no shortage of credit card numbers for sale on the dark web. But researchers have also found another hot commodity for sale in these seedy corners of the internet: airline miles.
Stealing airline miles from an unsuspecting consumer requires gaining access to their accounts, but criminals can combine multiple victims’ airline miles to purchase complete vacations then sell those online. Best of all, the criminal may have a long time to steal, plan, organize and sell the vacation, considering that most consumers don’t think to monitor their airline miles on a regular basis.
2. Embassy Scam
This scam is becoming so common that it’s even been reported in the US, targeting residents of other nationalities. It can take on a few different forms, such as visa scams or other document scams. In this one, you have traveled abroad and are informed that your paperwork is not in order. You failed to purchase some necessary document or certification and as such, you are in the country illegally. Unfortunately, the person who informs you of the problem is all too happy to sell you the “proper” but bogus documentation.
3. Age of Victims
While this isn’t a specific scam, it’s important to note what studies have shown about scams and identity theft. The stereotype about the senior citizen learning to work social media only to be lured in by a scammer isn’t the reality of the crime. It still happens to older adults, of course, but millennials are more likely to lose money to a scammer than senior citizens.
That can be just as true in the case of travel scams; part of the logic in why this data is true stems from an inherent comfort level about privacy. Millennials often feel like their information is already “out there,” and are quick to adopt new technology and platforms that might not have all the security kinks worked out yet. With millennials flocking to new travel platforms like ride-hailing and online marketplaces to share accommodations, they may be in as much danger from travel scams as any other type.
Of course, these are just a few of the things that smart travelers need to be mindful of. Other long-standing advice like being careful of fake travel deals, shady travel websites that steal your information, connecting over public, unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots and more, still applies just as much as ever. Staying vigilant shouldn’t ruin your vacation, but it does need to be a priority.
Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.