Flying During COVID? Do Your Homework, Says BBB

May 2, 2021

Credit Chad Davis/Flickr

More Americans getting the COVID-19 vaccinations means more Americans getting out of the house for the first time in more than a year. Those planning air travel need to know that scammers are lurking as you book your flight.

Reports of con artists creating fake airline ticket booking sites, or customer service numbers are said to be coming into Better Business Bureau offices.

“The airlines are starting to put out different air fares and that kind of thing, the scammers are right there with their fake websites,” said Tammy Ward at the BBB in Pensacola. She adds that a lot of the stings originate on social media pages, where bogus ads look a lot like the legitimate ones.

“Hoping that the person just clicks on their ad, and instead of going to a legitimate site, it will go to one of theirs,” Ward said. “They are great at doing websites that look legitimate, but you have to be careful. Because even though the social media do their best at trying to find the scammers, they can’t be a hundred percent.”

Make sure where you’re going on the web, and that the sites are secure. Look for the https prefix and a padlock icon in the address window. If you are buying airfare, use caution and double check the URL or phone number before providing your credit card information.

“Even before you book your flight, if you find a site that’s giving you a great deal, I would look and see what the flight is, what the airline is, and go directly to the airline’s website,” said Ward. “And make sure that that flight in particular is an actual flight.”

Another version of the scam, is after your book on a travel website with your credit card, you get a call from the company saying that there's been a sudden price increase or an extra charge to finalize your booking. This, says Ward, is something a legitimate company would never do. The bottom line is – do your homework before booking.

“You want to make sure you’re on a secure website, and we always suggest that you use a credit card because it’s easier to dispute than if you use a debit card or a prepaid card, because that money is basically gone,” Ward said. “And it’s very hard when you’ve been the victim of a scammer to get your money back.”

If you feel you’ve been a victim of such financial shenanigans, you’re urged to report it to the BBB’s ScamTracker program.

“BBB.org-slash-ScamTracker, and put it in,” said Ward. “We can’t help you get your money back, but you can help someone else not be a victim.”

President Biden’s announcement that face coverings are no longer required in certain situations may or may not apply in parts of air travel. That’s why it’s important, says Ward, to keep up to date with the various airlines’ possibly various rules and regs. She adds, take your mask with you, just in case.

“We have no idea of what the airlines are going to be doing in the future; things are changing on a weekly basis – a daily basis,” Ward said. “You never know if you’re flying out of one airport – it might have one set of rules, and you might get to another airport and they have another set of rules.”

More information is available at bbb.org/avoidscams.