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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
3 thoughts on “Booking travel online: 3 red flags of travel fraud”
On 26th September 2019, I onboarded flight MU 216 from YVR to NKG and NKG to KMG on a confirmed ticket no: 7815080630405 and journey went well. But while trying to board for the next leg of my journey from KMG to CCU for flight No. MU555 on the same ticket No: 7815080630405 , the China Eastern Airlines Ground Staff at KMG (Boarding Staff and Ground Staff #29303) told me that my ticket is cancelled/not confirmed (although it was confirmed all along- confirmed by China Eastern Employees themselves in Vancouver Downtown office and Expedia in the Itinerary) and the only way that I can onboard the flight is by buying a new ticket.So, in emergency I had to withdraw cash and buy a new ticket with Ticket No# 7812401523937 for 4149/- Chinese Yuan -(attached copy of the same) to onboard the flight.
Now for the return leg on 20th Oct from CCU to YVR – China Eastern is saying because of a no show on the earlier old ticket they will not allow me to onboard on my return flight from CCU to YVR – although that is completely false as they themselves didn’t allow me to onboard on that old ticket and I had to forcefully buy a new one.
Apart from the monetary harassment of 4149/- Yuan now my return to YVR on 20th Oct on the same ticket is in jeopardy. This is leading to daily harassment of me and my Spouse – we are having to daily call Expedia/China Eastern but no resolution of the issue yet. Besides the rude and unhelpful behavior of the China Eastern ground staff in China, lack of their English communication of the staff and lack of proper money exchange Kiosks- all this in a foreign country to the level where it was trauma for me and my family.
I request to please check the same and take appropriate action against China Eastern Airlines and Expedia including the refund of 4149/- Yuan(in CAD exchange) along with proper compensation for the harassment that I and my family had to face in KUNMING due to this mismanagement of China Eastern Airlines/Expedia and take actions to avoid any such incidents in the future.
Mayank Ashok Mukherjee
Resident – Vancouver,BC,Canada
Hi Mayank, thank you for your detailed message. Consumer Protection BC licenses travel agents and wholesalers in BC but the Travel Assurance Fund is generally for cases when an airline goes bankrupt or your travel agent goes out of business. In your case, you may want to continue talking to China Eastern Airlines and Expedia, and try contacting your credit card provider for a refund. Depending on the claim amount, if it’s $5000 or less, you may also want to look into Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT). Their website link is here. I hope you will be able to resolve the issue quickly.
I do not agree with your advice to always book travel through a travel agent. My experience has been to always book air travel with the airline direct. That way if you have a problem at check-in or a flight is delayed or changed you can deal with the airline through their agents. Otherwise you will have to do so through whoever booked the flight such as expedia or your agent, and trying to get them on the phone at 2 AM may be impossible.