As vaccination rates rise, travel plans are starting to take hold again. Unfortunately, cybercriminals remain at the ready to ruin your good time. Whether it’s promising discounted trips or posting phony rental listings, scammers are working to get a cut of your hard-earned travel money.
Whether you’re planning a trip to the beach or an invigorating nature hike with your family, the furthest thing from your mind is criminals attacking your finances online while you are offline.
Fake Rental Scams
If your plans include booking a vacation home rental, take note as there have been some fake renting scams online that promise an incredible getaway that is almost too good to pass up. This couple in California says their Valley home was listed on Airbnb as a rental property using fake pictures but sending people to their real address. The New York Post reported that Boy Scout troops booked two rental homes in Florida through Airbnb only to find empty lots when they arrived.
Unknown and Unsecure Wi-Fi Connections
Another potential danger is using Wi-Fi in your vacation rental. There are many scams associated with using an unknown Wi-Fi network connection, including man-in-the-middle attacks. This is where a cybercriminal can set up a seemingly free network and give it an enticing name or a name that looks to be the real deal. The user then connects to the network, but what they are really connecting to is the criminal’s computer.
When staying at a hotel, free internet access is often touted as a benefit of being a guest, however, this also provides scammers an “in.” Wireless internet “skimming” targets travelers with the promise of free internet access. This usually appears in the common areas of the hotel. The connection is free to access but it’s not safe. A hotel scam artist can be controlling the connection through their computer, collecting all the data the traveler transmits, including websites accessed, passwords used, card information, etc.
‘Spoofed’ Hotel Websites
Consumers should also be equally wary of hotel scams. The Better Business Bureau reports hotels provide scammers an easy path toward their goal of trying to separate a traveler from their cash. The most common scam to look out for is fake websites. It’s a common tactic where imposter or “spoofed” websites mimic legitimate booking platforms for hotels as well as airfare and rental cars. But, they do not deliver the product as promised.
How to Protect Yourself
Here’s what you need to know to help avoid a scam when planning your next vacation.
1. Before booking your next rental, make sure to check prices for comparable listings and be wary of those that are well below the average. If you are booking a hotel, make certain the website is legitimate. Scammers are famous for creating look-alike web pages to lure consumers into providing credit card information.
2. Keep communications through the vacation rentals verified website. Often verified websites show a “lock” icon to the left of the URL to show the website invests in security. For websites like Airbnb, personal information can be encrypted so data such as your credit card number and your email address is protected even if criminals can infiltrate their system.
Also, pay attention to any communication you have with the “host”. Make sure the emails are legitimate and never open any attachments you aren’t expecting.
3. Caution is always required when using foreign Wi-Fi, whether it’s through your vacation rental or your hotel room. You can help protect yourself and your data by being vigilant about security on your device. Before joining a network, make sure the Wi-Fi connection is secure and hosted through the hotel. Many secured connections require a two-step verification process. It is a smart idea to install a virtual private network (VPN) on your phone. By doing so, you can encrypt your data and disguise your location and prevent your data from being stolen.
4. Monitor your personal information 24/7 with a identity theft protection service. Such a service is well worth the investment and for peace of mind. If you become the victim of a rental scam or other fraud, that means criminals have access to your payment information and potentially access to some of your personal credentials. Make sure you’re protected.