Online travel scams are booming. Here is how to stay safe while booking your next vacation

Amrutha Pagad
Amrutha PagadMay 22, 2023 | 10:30

Online travel scams are booming. Here is how to stay safe while booking your next vacation

Online travel scams are booming. Here's how to be safe while booking vacation. Photo: Representation

Summer is here, and so is summer travel. But just as travel is set to boom, scamsters are also dusting off their playbooks, looking for their next victims. And it all begins from the one place you are most likely to go to once the idea of travel has been planted - Internet. 

Whether you are planning on a destination domestically or internationally, the first thing you will do is browse the web. McAfee, an American cybersecurity company, released its new report titled Safer Summer Holidays, detailing the responses of some 7,000 people across seven countries including India. 


  • 56% of the respondents said they are most likely to use the Internet to search for travel deals.
  • 35% said they are likely to use booking sites they haven't used before for a good deal
  • And nearly a third of the respondents said that they have been scammed or know someone who has been scammed while trying to get a good deal.
  • Of them, about 51% of Indian respondents said they have been scammed online while trying to save money when booking for travel. 
  • Many of the victims lost money between $500-$1,000 even before the trip began, according to the report. 
  • The report also stated that 14% were tricked into making payments via fraudulent means, 11% had their personal data stolen, 9% had their financial details stolen and 7% reported that their identities were even cloned. 

So, how can you stay safe while booking your next travel?

There are a number of things to keep in mind before and during your travel. Before your travel, when you are booking various things, these are some things to be wary of:

Fake websites: You may have seen that after you searched for a holiday destination, suddenly you started seeing ads for various things related to your search everywhere you went on social media. That's how the internet works. But among the cluster, there may be some bad actors that may look convincing. 

  • There may be cloned websites of legitimate booking sites, so check the spelling in the URL to make sure it is the real website. 
  • Be careful of travel websites you are not familiar with. There are several fake agents that crop up with websites offering too-good-to-be-true deals. The McAfee report warns people to check twice on how they are paying. 

Fishy payment methods: More often than not, scamsters will try to get you to pay using the payment method they want, sometimes even demanding cryptocurrency and gift cards that can't be traced or returned. 

  • Don't trust fishy links. If someone sent you a fishy seeming link to process payment or an APK application to download, there might be something wrong. Back in March, a Mumbai man lost Rs 5 lakh trying to make a token payment of Rs 101 to a cab service after clicking on an APK application link because the payment link wasn't working. 

Cross-check every hotel booking, flight booking, etc yourself and don't just leave everything to the travel agent because you don't want to find out that the hotel booking doesn't exist.  

Using public WiFi: The McAfee report emphasised the risks of using public WiFi. 


You want to get online in order to book a restaurant and you can't get cell service. You see an open Wi-Fi network and think 'why not?'
- Steve Grobman, senior vice president and chief technology officer at McAfee
  • The report asks travelers to be wary of free WiFi networks that don't need a password. It could be a hacker waiting to get access to your online activity and phone. 
  • If you want to use WiFi in a public place, check with the location employee or manager like in a restaurant or a café. 

Using VPN and incognito modes: McAfee suggests that people use VPN or at least the incognito or private modes during the initial stages of researching for travel. This way, the report states, people would be shielded from bad actors tracking web traffic and search activity from reaching out. 

Fake USB Charging Ports: This is a warning that the US FBI regularly gives out. You must have seen those charging cables or USB ports at public places like airports. It is best to avoid USB cable ports and abandoned charging cables to charge your phone as they could have been planted by hackers to steal your mobile information.

Last updated: May 22, 2023 | 11:16
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