Travel scams and how to protect your post-lockdown holiday

Steve Wilson, UK & Ireland Director atNortonLifeLock highlights the key steps travellers should take to keep scammers at bay while booking their vacation and the ways cyber criminals can take advantage of consumers

Few weeks back ‘staycations’ seemed like the only choice for Britons, looking to plan or reorganise their summer holiday. Despite ongoing uncertainties around the pandemic, however, the shifts in domestic and international travel restrictions have prompted travellers to consider other options for their post-lockdown break. Naturally, last minute holiday booking deals are attracting a lot of interest, capturing the attention of both savvy bargain hunters and online fraudsters alike.

Scammers have always kept an eye on notable consumer behaviour shifts stemming from keyword search spikes but also increased interest in topics – from hot celebrity gossip, major annual events, or seasonal sales. Given the appetite in discounted holidays and last minute flight bookings, they are now presented with the perfect opportunity to attempt hijacking consumer’s personal details and financial information.

With few simple tricks holidaymakers can not only learn how to look for the signs of fraudulent deals when booking their much needed vacation but find out how to keep themselves safe from cyber criminals while travelling.

Ticket to (privacy) hell
One of the common examples of the tactics that online scammers deploy is building highly convincing websites, which could offer accommodation that does not exist or “too good to be true” fake travel deals one can allegedly book on third-party websites. These rogue sites attempt to trick people into thinking they are making a reservation directly with their airline or hotel of choice. Instead, the victims are lured into purchasing bogus offers on sites set up to steal their money, financial information, or personal details.

To ensure you don’t fall victim to these scams, always go directly to the official website of the hotel or airline you are looking to book with. When booking direct or through a verified third party, always do some research on whether the site you are booking through is legitimate. It should have “HTTPS” in the URL so always check for the green padlock icon in top left of the address bar in your web browser. If you’re not sure whether it’s a real site or offer, consider calling the company’s official customer service line directly to verify.

When making a booking online, it’s a good idea to use a credit card instead of a debit card since this provides an extra layer of fraud protection. And after you’ve made a booking, check for a confirmation e-mail or call the hotel or travel company to confirm if your booking has been successful. If there is no record of your reservation, you’ll be able to alert your credit card company and report the fraud right away.

Before setting off on your holiday, remember to set up your bank account notifications to alert you via text, email or a call for any unusual activity or transactions.

Safe travels
While on vacation, it can be easy to forget about your online safety. It may seem like a simple tip, but never leave your devices unattended. To prevent someone from sneaking a peek at your device, ensure that you lock it when it’s not being used, set up a strong password with a minimum 6-digit code, as well as short lock period so it locks automatically after 30 seconds of inactivity.

While in transit, you should also be cautious of connecting to public Wi-Fi. Although it sounds harmless, checking social media or your bank account can put your data at risk to be intercepted by hackers on the same public network since these are often unsecure. Even password-protected networks could be unreliable as they allow other people to connect to the public network with the same password as you. The safest bet would be to use your mobile data or personal hotspot. You can also use a trusted VPN (Virtual Private Network) which creates a secure ‘tunnel’ that encrypts the data you send and receive while on public Wi-Fi.

As exciting as it may be to show off to friends and family all your adventures in real-time, holiday photos are an advertisement to criminals that you’re not at home. It’s essential that you update your privacy settings on social media to ensure only trusted friends and family can view your profile. Even then, avoid sharing specific dates, itineraries, or flight tickets. And remember – a harmless photo tagged to your holiday location immediately alerts burglars to your empty home. It’s best to wait and share those holiday snaps once you’re back home.

Keep safe and enjoy your break!
To ensure nothing gets in the way of your next holiday, remember to follow these simple tips and use a comprehensive security solution, such as Norton 360 for all your devices to keep your private information protected online, so you can enjoy your vacation with peace of mind.

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