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Watch for airfare scams, BBB warns

Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota is a nonprofit promoting high standards of business ethics and conduct through programs that inform, protect and assist the public. Contact the BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

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If you are buying airfare, use caution and double-check the URL or phone number before providing your credit information.

With COVID-19 vaccines rolling out, travel is coming back. BBB Scam Tracker is receiving reports of con artists creating fake airline ticket booking sites or customer service numbers.

How the scam works

While searching online for cheap flights, you come across what seems like a great deal with a major airline – either through the website or by calling a customer support number – and receive a confirmation message. However, when you look more closely at the email, you notice that you never actually received your ticket.

In another version of this scam, you book a flight on a travel website offering deals on airfare. You pay with your credit card like normal. Shortly after making the payment, you receive a call from the company saying there’s been a sudden price increase or an extra charge to finalize your booking. This is something a legitimate company would never do.

In either case, you call the airline to follow up about your flight. After talking to an agent, you find they have no record of your booking. It turns out you accidentally purchased tickets through a scam website or a phony customer service number.

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How to avoid travel scams

  • Do your research. If you come across a company you haven’t dealt with before, research it before making any purchases. 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, make sure 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 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, but 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.

For more information about protecting yourself from travel scams, visit BBB.org/TravelScam.
If you’ve been a victim of an airline ticket or other travel scam, please report your experience at BBB.org/ScamTracker. By doing so, you may help others avoid falling prey to scammers.

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