Beware of Social Media Travel Scams: How to Protect Yourself

By Ivan PetrenkoJun 16, 2024 04:30 AMNews
Person using a smartphone
Travelers are targeted by fake airline accounts. Source: unsplash

Criminals are increasingly targeting frustrated travelers on social media by setting up fake airline accounts and pretending to offer help. This trend, first highlighted by The Independent in 2022, sees scammers mainly from East Africa exploiting travelers' complaints to airlines and holiday companies.

The surge in these scams is significant, with one easyJet passenger who complained about a baggage issue on X (formerly Twitter) being contacted by ten scam accounts. The scams began as travel resumed post-COVID, with fraudsters seeing an opportunity amidst the chaos of lost baggage and canceled flights.

Scammers create "imposter" accounts that resemble official airline sites, such as @easyJet_easy_ or @CareBritish. Their goal is to lure unsuspecting travelers into believing they are receiving legitimate help, only to extract money through a series of elaborate lies.

A typical scam involves the fraudsters using bots to find and respond to complaints on social media. For instance, when asking about check-in times for a flight, travelers might receive messages from fake accounts requesting personal information under the guise of providing assistance. The scammers then initiate contact, often via WhatsApp, claiming to represent customer service from outsourced locations like Kenya.

During these interactions, the scammers ask for personal details and request the victim to download legitimate apps such as World Remit. They then instruct the victim to enter codes under the pretense of processing compensation, which actually transfers money to the scammers' accounts. The amounts involved can be substantial, sometimes totaling hundreds of pounds.

To avoid falling victim to these scams, travelers should verify the credentials of any accounts that contact them. Genuine company accounts will have a gold or blue verification tick. Checking the account's history and follower count can also help identify fakes; for example, legitimate accounts will have a substantial number of followers and a longer presence on the platform.

Additionally, travelers should never share their phone numbers or personal details through these channels. If contacted by a suspicious account, it is best to disconnect and reach out to the company through official channels. EasyJet advises customers to only follow and engage with their verified account, @easyJet, and to report any suspicious activity.

By staying vigilant and following these precautions, travelers can protect themselves from losing money to social media travel scams.

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