Avoid falling victim to travel fraud

By Vawn Himmelsbach

Imagine it’s the day before your flight and you get a message that your trip has been cancelled. You get an alert from the airline—at least, you think it’s the airline—telling you to click on a link to rebook the flight and pay the difference. But when you go to check into that next flight, you discover you were never rebooked. You’re the victim of a phishing scam.

This is the latest fraudulent scheme that Nikola Berube, director or sales for AMA Travel, is hearing a lot about. From online booking scams to rigged ATMs, there are a number of ways travellers can become victims of fraud before, during and even after a trip. Here’s how to avoid getting scammed and safeguard your vacation.

Book with a trusted source

If you are booking on your own or need to book something while already on the road, make sure you are booking on a trusted site; avoid unfamiliar companies with “too goo to be true” deals. Fraudsters can easily create a fake travel site using itineraries and photos from authentic websites. So you might think you are booking a particular hotel or airline, but you are not.

Consider using a travel counsellor

An AMA Travel counsellor can help you avoid online booking scams and non-reputable companies, as well as assist with visa requirements, travel advisories and insurance. Travel advisors work only with trusted suppliers and licensed tour operators and can also offer support if anything goes awry with a supplier not affiliated with AMA.

Get your International Driving Permit (IDP) from AMA

The only place in Alberta to obtain an IDP is from AMA. Any online booking site claiming to offer IDPs isn’t authorized to do so. If you’ve already left the country, so not fill out any online forms to get an IDP—AMA does not have an online application process.

Avoid suspicious-looking ATMs

If anything on the front of the ATM is broken or dislodged, it’s possible a fraudster has installed a card-skimming device. Look for ATMs associated with recognized banks and, ideally, located behind vestibules. “Be aware of your surroundings,” advises Berube. “You don’t want to be targeted at an ATM and be robbed, either.”

Don’t bank over public Wi-Fi

If you’re in a café, don’t be tempted to use the free Wi-Fi to make online purchases or do your banking. It’s easy for hackers to access public networks, and tourists are easy targets. Do your financial transactions only via a secure Wi-Fi source or cellular data plan.

When you get back

Continue to monitor account activity when you return home, as thieves can sit on credit card information for weeks, or even months, before attempting to use it.