Online travel bookings have revolutionised the way we plan and pay for our getaways, but the downside is that it’s also given criminals yet another way to relieve us from our hard-earned cash.
Every year, more and more people lose money to scammers who promise everything from bargain holiday accommodation to cheap flights. If it hasn’t actually happened to you, it’s certainly happened to someone you know.
There are lots of tips to help you avoid being scammed when booking travel online – a key one is obviously to make sure you’re booking with a secure website before you make a payment. It will give you an added layer of protection for your credit card and personal information.
There are two little things to look out for (you probably see these things every day without really noticing them):
1. Make sure the URL you’re looking at starts with https:// – to be clear, it needs to have an “s” at the end, and not just http:// (without an “s”).
2. Double-check that the domain name (URL) has a small lock within the search bar.
These two things may seem totally obvious, but when a (completely fake) clock is counting down the time before a “bargain” expires, it’s easy to overlook them. It doesn't mean you'll be 100% scam-proof, but be warned: an absence of these signs is a big red flag that a site may not be legitimate anddefinitely requires further research on your part.
• Make sure you’re using a legit website. Never assume it’s authentic as it’s so easy for someone to make a convincing fake – they often use images and words pinched from the genuine site, but with alterations and additions that should stand out like a sore thumb. Things like dodgy grammar and bad spelling.
• Check the domain name (URL). It might look okay at a glance, but on closer inspection maybe there’s a tiny spelling error. Or it just seems slightly “off” or suspicious in a way you can’t even really identify. Ultimately, if in doubt, check it out. Try contacting them or just Google for more information, reviews or confirmation that it’s a scam.
• Always use a credit card. You can dispute a charge if a problem arises or you're defrauded.
• Still unsure about an accommodation offer? Call the hotel or resort directly.
• Never pay directly into a bank account. No matter how how quick and easy it might be or how legit an offer might seem, if you’re dealing with a scammer, you'll be saying farewell to your funds – in a flash!
• Always remember, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
• Trust your instincts!