With so many online booking sites these days, it can be difficult to figure out which ones are legitimate and which ones are not. This is why it’s important to be aware of some of the warning signs of cyber fraud that targets people booking their travel plans online.

How does online travel fraud work?

These scams work by driving you to potentially malicious websites that can be used to install malware, steal your personal information and can end up costing you thousands. Here are some red flags to watch out for.  

Online travel fraud: 3 red flags to watch out for

  1. The website is not secure.
    When a website is secure, you’ll notice a closed padlock in the search bar on the left-hand side. If you don’t see one, you could be putting yourself at risk.
  2. The site itself or the payment method is unfamiliar.
    If you’ve never heard of the site before or don’t recognize the payment method, it could be a sign that the site is not legitimate. You should never be asked to purchase gift cards in order to pay for your trip. These kinds of issues can be avoided by booking your accommodation or flight through the hotel or airline’s website directly, instead of a third-party site. If you are booking through a third-party site, ensure you are dealing with a trusted business by reading reviews and asking around.
  3. The deal is too good to be true.
    While there are great deals out there (think flights sales and off-season prices), often when a deal seems to good to be true, there’s a chance it could be. Trust your gut and be extra careful if the price is so low it’s setting off alarm bells for you.

A helpful tip for booking travel online

If you live in BC and you’re booking travel online, booking with a licensed travel agency makes sure that the business is following the law. BC licensed travel agencies are required to clearly disclose any costs or outstanding balances when they receive a payment from you.

Also, the Travel Assurance Fund (TAF), a possible source of compensation if you don’t get the travel services you paid for, is only available if you booked with a licensed travel agent or wholesaler. To confirm that your online travel agency is licensed, do a licensee search on our website.

We license and regulate travel agents and wholesalers in the province. If you are booking travel, always do business with a licensed travel agent and always get a receipt. If you have any questions about a BC licensed travel agency, do not hesitate to visit the travel section of our website.

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About Consumer Protection BC

We are responsible for regulating specific industries and certain consumer transactions in British Columbia. If your concern is captured under the laws we enforce, we will use the tools at our disposal to assist you. If we can’t help you directly, we will be happy to provide you with as much information as possible. Depending on your concern, another organization may be the ones to speak to; other times, court or legal assistance may be the best option. Explore our website at www.consumerprotectionbc.ca.