The spread of COVID-19 has caused a shock to the travel industry, with airlines and travel agents seeing massive disruption to their normal business. As governments and organizations address the ongoing situation, fraudsters are unfortunately finding opportunity to attack unsuspecting businesses and individuals during the confusion. Travel agents and customers need to be aware of the common methods fraudsters are using, along with tips for detecting and preventing them from getting access to data and sensitive information.
Scams Facing Travel Agents
The most common acts of fraud a travel agent may face during this time include:
- Phishing emails requesting account password resets
- Booking requests made by doctors claiming the need to transport patients
- Communication from GDSs that don’t have accurate information
- Emails from the agent’s bank providing offers of support
- Any funding support offers
When faced with any of these situations, travel agents are encouraged to call and validate, particularly with communication from GDSs, emails from banks and any funding support offers. If it sounds too good to be true, chances are it is.
In addition, as bookings start to resume, be on the lookout for those promising high volume and business/first class tickets.
To better prepare and detect fraud, travel agents are encouraged to:
- Review all firewall settings at their business
- Ensure passwords to all systems are up to date
- Close all unused GDS bridges
- Review all lists of employees and sub-agents who have access to the business’s system and validate they are still required – if they’re not, close them out
Scams Facing Travel Customers
Customers, whether with travel already booked or looking to book travel in the future, also need to be aware of scams that target them during this time. These include:
- Fraudsters posing as travel agents requesting personal data via phone/email
- Calls/emails promising refunds or re-booking, or payment to complete this process
- Emails from unknown senders trying to get you to click a link
Travelers and customers are encouraged to safeguard frequent flyer and reward points data. Fraudsters are increasingly targeting miles and points to use as currency in travel fraud. It is also important to always check the address of the sender, not just the name that shows up in the email.
Ways to Prevent Fraud During COVID-19 and Beyond
- Remain vigilant and suspicious of everything. Remember – if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
- Validate, validate, validate. If you suspect a fraudster is posing as one of your customers or agents, reach out to them through a means of communication you’ve used in the past, such as a familiar email address or phone number.
All agents and customers are encouraged to use ARC resources that help identify and combat fraud:
Have any more questions about fraud prevention or think you are being targeted? Contact ARC at firstname.lastname@example.org.