With all the long weekends and holidays coming up, it’s always an attractive option to travel, take a breather somewhere far from the daily grind, and just escape for a while. Go on a trip in a foreign country
, or visit a historic town in a far-flung province—the possibilities just roll on and on. However, it is a given that travelling costs a lot of money, and so, explorers-to-be try to snatch the best deals online to save cash.
This, though, can be as dangerous as it seems convenient. Hotels and airlines put up tempting sales for holidays and long weekends, but nowadays, internet scammers and crooks know exactly what we want, and they adapt their online booking scams so that we couldn’t tell which is which.
So how do you avoid their deceiving deals and scheming sales? We got you covered with these tips:
• Beware of fake websites. Make sure that you visit the airline’s, hotel’s, or car rental agency’s official website only.
A helpful tip to check if it’s the company’s official website or at least a secure mirror site is if the URL of the website contains “HTTPS” at the beginning of the link. If you’re still unsure, don’t hesitate to call the company directly through any of the numbers provided to confirm.
• Scammers will do everything they can to put up a website that looks as original and legitimate as possible. Just keep a sharp eye: if the information presented are inconsistent, or if the grammar and spelling are spotty, then chances are these are fake websites. It pays to read everything, even passing descriptions and profiles, in choosing how to spend your well-earned cash wisely.
• If planning to use a third-party website (a website that offers its service to arrange transactions and online purchases, like PayPal or EBay, between you and the merchant), try to scout for the one with a good reputation among previous customers.
This is where reading reviews will come in handy. If you see that people have previously bought products or have availed of services and paid for them without a hitch, then that’s one step towards reliability.
Beware of phishing websites, or websites that gather all the personal info of the user from their birthdays to their credit card details without your knowledge. Online, there are tons of sources on how to spot phishing links and websites, but some of the most obvious clues are that they look like advertisements, and have suspicious-looking URLs when the cursor hovers over them. They may also look like genuine websites, so be sure to read anything presented to you before making a deal.
• For frequent flyers, it’s already a given to compare prices with competitors. However, if the deal is too good to be true, then there might be a chance that it’s a scam. Trust your gut, or if need be, call any of the company’s direct hotline to confirm.
• You might be on the lookout for online scammers, but odds can also be that the company itself is a scam, or at the very least, a bad business to transact with. Thus always make sure to check who you’re buying from.
As much as possible, research about the company and check the feedbacks from previous customers. Check their social media websites such as their Facebook or Twitter accounts, as well as reliable online forums for warnings about scams or complaints. Check their customer care hotlines and e-mail addresses, as well as any form of certification or registration from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
• Check if there’s a refund, return, or exchange policy for the online booking. It is imperative for companies to at least have policies on customers having to cancel bookings and reservations. This also helps to keep you from having to pay exorbitant cancellation or re-booking fees. In addition, you should also take the time to read the fine print so you know exactly what you pay for, and what you need to pay for along the way. If it’s not cited nor accounted for prior to your agreement, then do not pay for it, and contact their customer hotline immediately.
• For airline bookings, take note of potential flight time changes. Some online travel booking sites tend to put their customers on cheap flights without warning them of potential time changes. To prevent this, verify your travel arrangements 24 hours before the scheduled flight directly with the airline or arrive at the airport ahead of your designated time. Ask them to notify you of possible time changes or re-routing directly via contact details provided. It also pays to know of your rights as a passenger in case of flight delays and cancellations
• Be knowledgeable about the current foreign currency exchange rates prior to booking flights since scammers can deceive into making you pay for more than the usual price. Oftentimes, scammers also take advantage of this by bloating the designated rate.
• Refrain from using debit cards when booking your trips online. Opt to use a credit card, since majority of credit card companies offer fraud protection. It will come in handy just in case the website is fake or hacked because the fraud protection won’t let cybercriminals get near your bank account.
The internet is teeming with scammers today hoping to rake in quick cash from unmindful customers. It may seem such a chore to have to always be on the lookout for online booking scams, but it’s well worth your time, money, and of course, safety.