CEBU CITY, Philippines – The COVID-19 pandemic may have already waned but its impact left long-lasting effects on how we live, including how we travel.
After almost three years in lockdown, everyone is in the mood for ‘revenge travel’, and nowadays, they’re looking for their next destination through their mobile phones or laptops.
However, the public must also be aware that fraudsters also abound online. Ready to pounce on the unsuspecting traveler
The local government of Santa Fe in Bantayan Island recently sought the help of law enforcers in identifying scammers who took away up to P8,000 from tourists who want to visit their town during the recent Holy Week.
The suspects turned out to have opened a fake travel and tour agency on social media and pretended to be affiliated with some resorts in this popular, summer destination.
Santa Fe Mayor Ithamar Espinosa, in turn, urged visitors to book their reservations directly at the establishment. He also encouraged them to make sure that the resorts they will be staying in are accredited ones.
Here are also additional ways to help you spot fake accounts and ultimately save yourself from falling victim to scammers, according to cybersecurity experts.
1. Be Wary of Posts or Messages with Sense of Urgency
Malicious posts and messages usually have a sense of urgency on them, Microsoft said in one of their entries that deal with online scams.
In the case in Santa Fe, where eight individuals got duped, scammers enticed the victims into paying them the downpayment for a last-minute reservation.
“The urgency is to get you to take the message seriously and also to get you to act on the message without thinking about it too much, consulting a trusted advisor, or looking into whether the message might be a fake,” added Microsoft.
A similar entry from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also pointed out that scammers want ‘to rush people’ into making any significant decisions, like shelling out money.
“If someone says you have to decide whether to buy a travel package or rent a vacation property right away, don’t do it,” FTC explained.
2. Background Check
Cybersecurity experts suggested for consumers as well as businesses take some time in doing background checks not only on the establishments they will be staying in but also on individuals or groups claiming to be affiliated with brands or establishments.
A quick and easy way of doing a background check is to search for the business name on Google. You may also want to check out the reviews customers left.
3. Always Ask for Confirmation
There are instances when customers need to pay a certain amount for a downpayment to keep their reservation. If this is the case, it is highly recommended to always ask for confirmation from the establishment itself afterward, especially if you make reservations through third-party sites.
4. Check the Websites
Some scammers take the extra mile in opening a fake website. You can check the site’s legitimacy through simple steps like checking the spelling of the business or brand on the URL or link; the quality of the texts and photos published; and its security. A secured and encrypted website has URLs that start with https://, and not https:. A padlock icon on the left side of the URL also indicates that the site you’re currently visiting can be trusted.
5. Don’t Give Out Personal Information
Legitimate businesses often don’t ask you to provide personal or sensitive information like your favorite pet, bank account number, and credit card details. You don’t have to provide them with your one-time password (OTP) as well since they’re not the ones who initiated the prompt.
6. Report Suspicious Activities
If you suspect that you might be dealing with fraudsters, it is best to immediately report them to authorities or platform owners. For example, when a group pretends to be a travel and tour agency on Facebook, you can file a report to Meta, or relay the information you have gathered about their activities to the nearest cybersecurity unit of the police. /rcg
- 5 Tips to Protect Yourself from Online Travel Booking Scams (norton.com)
- Avoid Scams When You Travel | Consumer Advice (ftc.gov)
- Protect yourself from online scams and attacks – Microsoft Support
- How to spot and avoid scams on Facebook and Instagram | Meta for Business