A flight you’ll want to fight: BBB warns travelers about fake airline booking sites

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FILE – In this Oct. 15, 2020, file photo, a United Airlines airplane takes off over a plane on the runway at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco. United Airlines says it will train 5,000 pilots at its own academy in this decade, and it hopes that half of them will be women or people of color. United said Tuesday, April 6, 2021, it is now taking applications for the academy in Arizona, including from people who have no flying experience. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — With the COVID-19 vaccine being administered all over the nation many people are looking forward to making travel plans for the summer. However, scammers are creating fake airline ticket booking sites to trick you, the Better Business Bureau said.

The BBB said, if you are buying airfare, double check the URL and phone number before providing your credit card information.

They said if you are doing an online search for cheap flights, you may come across what looks like a great deal with a major airline. If you book the “flight” through the website or by calling the customer support number, you will receive a confirmation message.

BBB said if you look closely at the email, you will notice that you never actually got a ticket for the flight and you were scammed.

They said another version of the scam is through a fake travel website offering deals on airfare. You pay with your credit card and after making the payment, someone calls from the “company” and alerts you to a sudden price increase or extra charge needed to finalize your booking.

BBB emphasizes that this is not something a legitimate company would ever do.

They suggest calling the airline to follow up about your flight and speak to an agent to make sure your booking is on record. In these instances, they wouldn’t have a record of your purchase because the scammer stole your money.

A victim told BBB Scam Tracker, “I received a phone call right after [I booked the flight] stating that they wanted $100 per passenger to finalize my flight.” Then, after calling the airline to complain, the victim discovered “the flight wasn’t available, to begin with. The flight was never booked … this company just charged my card.” 

Tips from the BBB on avoiding travel scams:

  • Do your research. If you come across a company you haven’t dealt with before, research it before making any purchase. Look on BBB.org for reviews and feedback from previous customers.
  • Double check the URL before you enter personal and payment information. It can be easy to click on a sponsored ad or imposter website without noticing. Before you enter any sensitive information, double check that you are on the right website and that the link is secure. (Secure links start with “https://” and include a lock icon on the purchase page. Learn more at BBB.org/BBBSecure.)
  • Be wary of third-party websites. Some websites appear to offer a legitimate service, but are only fronts for a scam. Be suspicious of websites with no working customer service number and no physical address. Typos and grammatical errors can be indications of a scammer’s handiwork, too.
  • Make online purchases with your credit card. Fraudulent charges made on a credit card can usually be disputed, whereas that might not be the case with other payment methods. Unfortunately, there is no way to get back the personal information you may have shared.

If you have been a victim of this type of scam, you can report your experience at BBB.org/ScamTracker.

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