Think you’ve found the deal of a lifetime when you see last-minute airline ticket available for just a fraction of the usual price? Be careful before you buy, or you could wind up with no ticket and losing your money to criminals – a victim of airline ticket fraud.
How does airline ticket fraud work?
- Criminals use stolen, compromised or hacked credit card details to buy airline tickets
- The criminals offer these tickets for sale at bargain prices via professional-looking websites or social networking accounts which appear to be for legitimate travel agencies or agents
- The criminal ‘travel agents’ ask for immediate payment, typically by cash, bank transfer or virtual currencies
- After receiving your payment, the criminal sends you the flight booking confirmation – with their original purchase details deleted
But what’s the harm?
When you buy an airline ticket in this manner, you put your money directly into the hands of criminals – who use it to fund other serious crimes.
If the owner of the stolen credit card which was used by the criminal to make the initial purchase reports it before the scheduled flight, the ticket will be cancelled by the airline and you will be unable to travel.
If the credit card owner reports the fraudulent purchase during your trip, you could be stranded with no way to return home.
Warning signs a ticket ‘sale’ could be fraud
There are some red flags to look out for when you see a flight to your dream destination advertised for an extremely low price:
Is the ticket price significantly cheaper than anywhere else? – Since they make 100 per cent profit, criminals will offer bargain prices to entice you to take their ‘deal’
Is the departure date in the next few days? – Criminals will offer fraudulently purchased tickets only one or two days before the flight (or even the same day), before the real credit card owner notices the fraud and cancels the ticket
Are you asked to pay in cash or via bank transfer? – With these methods, your money is gone instantly and you have little recourse to get it back in case of fraud
Does the travel agency’s website/social media account provide a full range of contact details, including a physical address and landline telephone number? – If not, do some research to confirm it is a legitimate, certified travel agency before purchase
Tips for making safe purchases
- Book airline tickets directly from the airline, or a reputable travel agency which is certified by your country’s relevant authorities
- Only buy tickets online from websites with secure payment systems (e.g. https at the beginning of the web address)
- Research the travel agency you intend to buy from. Do they have a legitimate website? Do they have positive or negative online reviews? Is there a way to contact them in case of issues?
- Check the Terms and Conditions before making a purchase, in particular the refund policy and processes
- Look for the logo of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on the company’s website