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Ticket scammers target people coming back from the Holidays

This scam is especially dangerous because it is so difficult to detect and since the scammer is the initial buyer…

The strike comes just as many people begin to travel for the holiday season
The strike comes just as many people begin to travel for the holiday season - Copyright AFP Pedro Pardo
The strike comes just as many people begin to travel for the holiday season - Copyright AFP Pedro Pardo

Cybersecurity experts warn that fake ticket sellers are becoming more active in the U.S. during the holiday season. As early as in August of this year, Google released a blog post recommending buying plane tickets well in advance since those who leave booking flights to the last minute often gave to pay excessive prices or get scammed while pursuing a cheaper option.

“People tend to let their guard down whenever they feel like the safe option is too expensive,” says Adrianus Warmenhoven, a cybersecurity expert at NordVPN tells Digital Journal. “This way, they expose themselves to greedy scammers waiting for someone to make a mistake, give out their personal data, or transfer money into malicious hands.”

Hackers use stolen payment cards to perform the scam

To perform ticket fraud, Warmenhoven  explains, criminals use stolen or hacked credit card details to buy plane tickets. After that, they offer these tickets for sale at prices too good to be true through phishing websites that may look legit to their unsuspecting victims. Once a victim pays for their fake ticket, criminals send the booking confirmation, and the user only finds out about the scam when the time to travel comes.

When a scam victim arrives at an airport, their booking may be cancelled after the owner of the stolen credit card finds out about the fraudulent transaction. Even if the owner doesn’t report the purchase until after the scammed traveller has boarded the plane, the credit card company may still reverse the charge, leaving the fraud victim with no way to return from their Christmas holidays.

How to avoid fake ticket scams

“This scam is especially dangerous because it is so difficult to detect. Since the scammer is the initial buyer, they remain the point of contact for the official ticket seller, so the scammed traveller has no way of finding out that their booking was cancelled before they need to board the plane,” says Warmenhoven.

He recommends being cautious online, especially before a Holiday time, and gives these tips for winter travellers:

  • If the price is too good to be true, it probably is fake. Scammers can provide much lower prices because they purchase tickets by stealing money from other people.
  • Be careful with “last-minute” deals. Hackers always try to sell the tickets they bought with stolen money as soon as possible, ideally before the robbed cardholder cancels the transaction.
  • Learn to identify phishing websites. If you enter a suspicious website, inspect it for grammar mistakes, flashy ads, or poor design. Usually, hackers do not invest too much time polishing every sentence or illustration.  
  •  Buy your tickets from trusted distributors. Even if you are not buying your tickets directly from an airline, make sure the distributor you choose is well-known and has multiple reviews from its users.

Warmenhoven concludes by recommending to Digital Journal readers that if you suspect you may have bought a fake ticket, contact the service provider by email or the phone number you can find on their official website. 

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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