Snowbirds, be aware of vacation scams while planning your getaways

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Net Patrol International Inc.  Data Investigation and Forensic Services
Bankruptcy and Insolvency Trustees

January 13, 2020 – As the bitter cold sets in, the Canadian snowbird packs its bag, buys flights, and relocates to another place probably close to a beach. However, be aware of vacation scams. Fraudsters take advantage of the high search volumes for accommodations and deals in popular destinations. According to a cyber fraud study in Canada by the computer security software firm McAfee, 13 percent of Canadians had been scammed or nearly scammed while booking a vacation online. Generally, the incidents of cyberfraud in Canada have more than doubled from 2014 to 2018 according to Statistics Canada. Watch out for the following scams to avoid bogus bookings.

Website authenticity

There are dozens of booking portals to search for the perfect getaway such as Expedia, Redtag, or Kayak. Before booking a vacation, 27 percent of Canadians do not check the authenticity of a website according to McAfee. Most at risk are so-called ‘bargain hunters’ who are looking for a good deal online. In fact, 30 percent of the victims of vacation fraudsters fell for travel deals that were too good to be true. Unfortunately, most of these victims do not realize they had been scammed until they arrive at ‘their holiday rental’.

Furthermore, another risk while booking vacations online on bogus websites is experiencing identity theft after sharing their passport or credit card information, etc. with cyber fraudsters during the booking process.

In order to ensure a carefree getaway, it is crucial to use verified websites while searching for travel options. Those looking to book their vacation online are advised to use trusted platforms and verified payment methods when confirming bookings in order to avoid phishing and cyber fraud. Most web browsers will display a closed padlock icon to the left of the web site’s URL to signify that the website is safe.

Vacation rental scams

If you’re looking for a nice apartment or cottage for your next vacation, be sure you trust the ad. Fraudsters are fraudulently posting properties for rent online using sites like Kijiji or Craigslist.

Typically, the fraudulent ads are listed on considerably lower prices. However, the ‘renter’ then asks for a deposit on the rental sent via wire transfer, money order, or cashier’s cheque – credit cards are usually not accepted. The potential victim normally does not have the chance to discover the fraud until they arrive at the property which either does not exist or was never available for rent.

Read more: Montreal travel agent fraud scams $30,000 in fake vacations

Be sure that the ad for your desired rental gives the exact address and that the same property is not listed several times with different contact people. Additionally, before booking online, be advised to do your research on the property and the landlord. Check if a phone number is provided and try to confirm that the property actually exists.

Don’t put yourself at risk while traveling

We’ve all been there. You are on holiday in a foreign country and the first thing you check is the free Wi-Fi access provided by the hotel, the airport or the local coffee shop. People connect to these hotspots without thinking twice. According to McAfee, 44.5 percent of Canadians are putting themselves at risk while traveling by not checking the security of their internet connection or willingly connecting to an unsecured network.

Activities that require a login such as reading e-mails or checking your bank account is risky on public Wi-Fi. There is a tremendous number of risks that come with free, unsecured networks since their security measures are often lax or nonexistent.

If you need to conduct transactions on a public Wi-Fi connection, use a virtual private network (VPN) to keep your information safe. Furthermore, travelers are advised to disable file sharing, your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth if it is not used. Use websites with HTTPS in case you need to login to an account especially those who hold sensitive information such as financial or healthcare accounts. Thereafter, always make sure to log out of your accounts as soon as you are done using them.