Travel scams triple in Australia, watchdog says

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Airbnb, the accommodation of choice for millions of travelers, celebrated its 100th million guest in 2016. And cybercriminals paid notice. Scam reports have tripled from 2015, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch says.

Australia’s consumer watchdog said Monday more than $80,000 has been lost to online scams in 2016.

To fool people into paying up, scammers are running fake websites or requesting payments via third-party wire transfers.

When you go to book a break, scammers direct you away from the site and ask you to pay them directly using money orders or wire transfer services such as Western Union and MoneyGram,” said Delia Rickard, ACCC’s deputy chair. “Some reports indicate that scammers create very convincing fake versions of the site which they can use to collect personal details and banking information.”

If you plan to book your Christmas holiday through a travel site, follow these essential guidelines to avoid rip-offs:

  • Do your research, check the hotel’s website on WHOIS to find out more about its authenticity and browse forums and reputable sites for reviews.
  • Update your security solution to make sure the anti-phishing engine blocks fake pages.
  • Use only secured websites for online payments.
  • Pay with a credit card instead of a debit card, as it’s typically easier to dispute the charges.

Airbnb said incidents are “incredibly rare” and offered its support.

“But we also know that one incident is one too many, which is why we’re pleased to work with the ACCC on this to ban folks who do the wrong thing,” said Sam McDonagh, Airbnb Australia’s country manager.

Airbnb isn’t the only name used in these types of phishing scams. In 2014, online travel agent was said to have compensated customers whose personal details had been stolen via bogus emails.

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