Planning your next big summer trip? Beware of these scams

Now that the lockdowns are over and travel restrictions have been lifted, more than half of American adults are planning to take a trip this summer and cybercriminals have taken notice.

According to a recent survey by The vacationer (opens in a new tab)more than 80% of American adults have started planning their summer travel plans and 20% of respondents plan to travel abroad. The number of people preparing to travel this year has also increased by 19% compared to last year and almost half of holidaymakers are in “revenge travel mode” and plan to travel more than once in 2022.

As such, cybercriminals are also gearing up to scam unsuspecting travelers looking for last-minute getaway deals. According to Bitdefender Antispam Lab, travel-themed spam started appearing in users’ inboxes in March, US (37%), Ireland (18%), India (12%) and the UK (9%) being the most targeted. countries.

If you’re planning on taking a trip this summer, here are some of the things you’ll want to watch out for to make sure you get to your destination safely instead of getting infected with malware or even worse, be a victim of identity theft.

Travel-themed spam is making a comeback

For more on the online threats facing travelers this summer, Bitdefender conducted a three-month analysis of travel spam.

Some of the most popular email topics for travel-themed spam and phishing attempts include bonus flight hours, vacation rentals, and all-inclusive deals.

This year, travel-themed spam first arrived in the company’s customer inboxes beginning in March. There was a massive spike in April when the rate of travel-themed spam jumped to 44% before dropping slightly to 37% in May.

Some of the most popular email subjects for travel-themed spam and phishing attempts include bonus flight hours, vacation rentals and all-inclusive offers, booking receipt notices, booking confirmations and airline ticket giveaways.

Although traditional spam ads promoting all-inclusive deals were not flagged as malicious by Bitdefender’s email security tools, customers who purchase travel deals through spam emails usually don’t get their money’s worth. A search for spam travel deals found bad reviews and complaints with negative comments pointing to misleading descriptions, poor customer service, hidden fees and an inability to contact service providers.

Phishing attempts and brand impersonation

fish hook on a keyboard

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

When it comes to travel-themed phishing lures, Bitdefender points out that many include keywords related to summer vacations and well-known airlines such as Delta, American Airlines, United Airlines, and Alaska Airlines, among others. . These are often used to conduct giveaway surveys and gift card scams to steal money and personally identifiable information from consumers.

However, it seems that the cybercriminals behind these travel-themed campaigns are on a bit of a vacation themselves, as Bitdefender has noticed that their phishing lures aren’t very convincing.

Cybercriminals also exploit malicious domains and URLs to trick potential victims into downloading attachments in the form of invoices and credit card transactions that may contain malware and other viruses.

Bitdefender’s anti-spam and anti-malware filters also flagged a malicious campaign in which cybercriminals impersonated popular international hotel chains and tour operators, including Accor Hotels, Panorama Tours, Meritus Hotels and others, to provide flights credentials. trojans.

Brand impersonation is a common tactic used by cybercriminals to trick consumers into compromising their data and stealing their money. For this reason, Bitdefender always recommends exercise caution when dealing with travel-related correspondence via email, instant messages, pop-ups or advertisements on social media platforms.

How to avoid online travel scams this summer

In order to avoid getting scammed when planning a trip this summer, you need to do thorough research before purchasing any travel or accommodation packages through any ad you see on social media. At the same time, you should never rely solely on positive reviews and high trust scores, as these can be faked. Any offer should also be checked for bad grammar, misspelled words or other inconsistencies as these are big red flags.

Any offer should also be checked for bad grammar, misspelled words or other inconsistencies as these are big red flags.

When planning your next trip, you should only use holiday platforms to search for accommodation, flights and tours. When it comes to paying for your trip, never use a bank transfer or cryptocurrency. Instead, you should use a credit card or PayPal so you can easily dispute fraudulent charges.

For those who still prefer to plan their trips the old-fashioned way through a travel agency, you should never give out your credit card number or sensitive data over the phone. It should be done in person so you know it’s not a scam.

It should also be noted that a vpn can be very useful when buying airfare and accommodation. Indeed, a VPN allows you to change your IP address and avoid location-based price targeting. Similarly, searching for flights in incognito mode can prevent airlines and travel services from leaving cookies in your browser, which can lead to higher prices.

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