Today, as we navigate a digital world, we also encounter an unfortunate reality: scammers. These deceptive individuals prey on the trust or vulnerability of many, sometimes including those we love.

Scammers can disguise themselves behind screens, send phishing emails, call to get credit card information or, now, steal personal and financial information by offering assistance to fliers who vent online.

How are scammers deceiving frustrated fliers?

After travelers express their frustrations on social media, scammers step in to offer help. They request personal information, such as a phone number or WhatsApp contact, through direct messages to address the issue. This often leads to an offer to rebook your flight reservation, followed by a request for your credit card details, according to The Washington Post.

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Mike Hume, a reporter for The Washington Post, recently shared a troubling story after facing issues during a flight delay with JetBlue. Hume turned to X to voice his concerns directly to the airline. However, he received what seemed like helpful responses from accounts claiming to be a manager and supervisor who worked with JetBlue.

Luckily, Hume noticed neither account was verified, there was a misspelling in the account name and they had a low follower count, per The Washington Post.

Even though X has tried to make its verification system better, fake accounts continue to spread and trick users. Also, Elon Musk’s Twitter Blue subscription service has made it easier for scammers to buy the blue checkmark. This makes customers think that the verified account is the real one, when it might not be, per Market Realist.

Are airlines doing anything about it?

Official corporate airline accounts now carry gold checks, according to X.

Airlines have also released statements regarding the issue.

Derek Dombrowski, senior manager in corporate communications for JetBlue, told The Washington Post, “Along with the rest of the industry, we have seen several fake social media accounts falsely representing themselves as JetBlue to deceive and defraud customers.”

Dombrowski said that the airline collaborates with a cyber fraud prevention company and its own legal team to fight against fake posts. However, because fake social media accounts are simple to make, getting rid of them is like playing whack-a-mole. So it’s important to stay alert and watch out for these sneaky practices, per The Washington Post.

United Airlines spoke to Fox Business saying that while its team keeps an eye out for fraudulent communications with customers, it advises to “always verify any account they share information with.”

Furthermore, United urged customers to “report fraudulent interactions to the social media platform where they occurred,” per Fox Business.

Southwest Airlines told Fox Business, “Messaging us privately is the safest and most secure way to know you’re talking to Southwest and avoid someone else jumping into the conversation.”

Are there any other scams regarding travel?

The Federal Trade Commission shares a lot of information and suggestions regarding scammers while traveling.

The most common travel scams

1. ‘Free’ vacations

You might have come across online ads promoting “free” vacations or received emails, calls or texts claiming you’ve won a vacation without entering any contests.

However, if you respond to these offers, you’ll discover that you need to pay fees and taxes upfront, meaning the “free” vacation isn’t truly free. A genuine company wouldn’t require you to pay for a prize that’s supposed to be free.

2. Robocalls about vacation deals

You may receive robocalls offering vacation deals at a reduced rate. It’s important to note that robocalls from companies attempting to sell you something are unlawful unless they have obtained written permission directly from you to make such calls.

If someone is already breaking the law by robocalling you without consent, it’s likely a scam. At the very least, it’s a company you should avoid doing business with.

3. International travel document scams

You may encounter websites that promise assistance in obtaining an international travel visa, passport or other documents. However, these sites are merely imitations of the U.S. Department of State website.

They often charge steep fees, including fees for services that are actually free on the official U.S. Department of State website.

4. International driving permit scams

An international driving permit translates your government-issued license into 10 languages. Scammers establish websites to sell counterfeit international driving permits or attempt to sell them to you through various means. Purchasing a fake international driving permit means spending money on a document that holds no value.

Additionally, you could encounter legal troubles or travel disruptions if you’re detained for using it to drive in a foreign country. Only the U.S. Department of State, the American Automobile Association and the American Automobile Touring Alliance have authorization to issue international driving permits.

5. Vacation home scams

It’s easy to communicate directly with property owners who showcase their vacation homes online. However, scammers are also targeting rental bookings. They may hijack genuine rental listings and present them as their own, leaving you stranded when you arrive for your vacation to find others booked for the same property.

This situation leaves you without accommodation and your money lost. Alternatively, some scammers fabricate listings for properties that aren’t available for rent or don’t even exist.

6. Charter flight scams

You might receive a flyer, encounter an advertisement or be informed by someone in your community about an opportunity to travel via private plane to a destination of your choice. This offer may encompass accommodations and sightseeing tours, leading you to believe it’s a legitimate charter flight and vacation package.

However, upon payment, you discover it’s a scam. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Special Authorities Division curates a list of authorized public charter flights. If the charter filing hasn’t received DOT approval before the package is sold, you’re likely engaging with a deceitful charter operator.

Signs of a scam

  • Fraudsters promote a supposedly “free” vacation that requires payment: They often lure you in by claiming you’ve won something, only to demand payment for it later. If payment is required, it’s not genuinely free, and the accumulated fees and taxes can amount to hundreds of dollars.
  • Scammers provide vague details about the travel offer: The offer promises a stay at a “five-star” resort or a “luxury” cruise ship without offering specific information like the hotel address or cruise company’s name. If details are lacking, it’s best to steer clear.
  • They insist on payment for vacation rentals solely through wire transfer, gift card or cryptocurrency: This makes it nearly impossible to recover your money once they’ve collected it.
  • Scammers apply pressure to make a swift decision about vacation packages or rentals: If you’re urged to decide immediately, it’s wise to decline. Scammers thrive on rushing their victims, so it’s better to explore other options.
  • They advertise premium vacation properties at unusually low prices: If the rent seems significantly cheaper than comparable rentals, it could be a sign of a scam. Always be wary of below-market prices in rental listings.

How to avoid travel scams

  • Before signing or making any payments, ensure you understand the terms of the agreement: Obtain a copy of the cancellation and refund policies beforehand. If these details aren’t provided, it’s best to walk away. Decline any offers that pressure you to decide hastily without allowing time for consideration.
  • Conduct thorough research: Search for reviews or complaints related to travel companies, hotels, rentals and agents using terms like “scam,” “review” or “complaint.” Verify the existence of the property’s address and, if it’s within a resort, contact the front desk to confirm its details as outlined in the contract.
  • Avoid paying with wire transfers, gift cards or cryptocurrency: Dishonest travel package promoters may insist on these payment methods, which are clear indicators of a scam. Using these methods can result in the loss of your money without recourse for tracking or recovery.

If you suspect you’ve been targeted by a travel scam, you can report it to the FTC via ReportFraud.ftc.gov or your state attorney general.