If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There are a variety of online travel scams out there that seek to lure you in to making travel decisions or purchases based on fake information. From fake travel vouchers to fabricated travel reviews and dummy WiFi networks, these scams are ones you need to be aware of and avoid.
Fake Travel Vouchers on Facebook
A promotion of free Southwest Airlines tickets periodically emerges on Facebook and spreads fast and far across the social media network. Similar fraudulent offers have appeared for JetBlue and Delta. In all cases, the link is a ruse that leads users to a site that looks identical to the official one—except that it prompts users to connect with their Facebook account and install an application. When users accept, the malicious application can harvest personal information. While many trustworthy applications leverage Facebook and encourage users to connect their accounts to interact, take the time to be sure an application is official before installing or connecting.
Fabricated TripAdvisor and Yelp Reviews
Aggregate review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp are the first point of reference for many travellers. Since so many consumers and industry professionals rely on these sites, reviews have the potential to sabotage business owners' reputations and to misguide. They can be penned anonymously or under a pseudonym, and controls to prevent or monitor the validity of reviews are more or less nonexistent (although site officials talk of algorithms and designated individuals to sleuth out false reviews). Look at the collective evaluation of a place, as opposed to zeroing in on one especially glowing or negative review, and hedge your bets by cross-checking reviews across both user-generated and editorial websites.
The Stranded Traveller Scam
People often take to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media to post about the dates and details of upcoming travel plans. Instances have occurred in which scam artists track this information and then, when that person is away, access the out-of-towner's account to send out panicked messages requesting money to friends and connections. These scam artists are attempting to exploit the sense of trust social media can create. If you get an urgent cash request, it's best to verify it with your friend first and through a different medium than where you received the message.
Dummy Wi-Fi Networks
Some hackers phish data by establishing a dummy Wi-Fi network that overlaps with that of a hotel or other business, so that it appears as an option for users attempting to connect. Information is then gleaned from those who connect and navigate on the network. Often these network names will differentiate slightly from the real one, perhaps incorporating a misspelling that can go unnoticed. Double-check the Wi-Fi information with your hotel's staff, but keep in mind that even the property's official wireless network also might be unsecure.