Flight Booking Scams

Beware of Travel Booking Scams!

Originally Disseminated: 2022-11-18

We have been made aware that international students are being targeted in travel booking scams where fake travel booking sites are promising cheap flights abroad.

How the Scam Works:

  1. Once the student uses the site to check flights, they are contacted by a site “agent” either through an online chat function or by WhatsApp.
  2. The agent helps to complete the “booking”.
  3. In reported cases an actual booking is created with a confirmation that can be verified on the Airline’s website.
  4. Once the payment information is submitted, the booking is cancelled by the “agent” and the student loses the money that was paid for the flights.
  5. The student then tries to reconnect with the agent or the booking “agency” but gets no response.

Here are our best tips to help you avoid getting scammed:

  • Whenever possible, book directly with the airline or hotel. This is this best way to avoid getting scammed by a fake third party organization.
  • If you want to try to use a third party booking agency, choose one that is well-known and has a reputable brand.
  • Conduct basic research. Search the “booking agency” on a trusted review site such as TripAdvisor or ScamAdviser to see if people have been scammed by them. The links will show examples of what you might find…
  • Verify that the site is using a top-level domain (TLD) name that uses the .com suffix; not .org or .net, and that the website is not a misspelling of a legitimate business. (For example: Xpedia.ca instead of Expedia.ca)
  • If you decide to use the service, make sure that the page you are entering your payment information into is secure. A secure website uses encryption and authentication to protect your transaction. The URL will begin with “https” and include a padlock icon, also known as an SSL certificate.
  • When booking a flight online, chose paying with a credit card over a bank card. Many credit cards offer fraud protection services. If you submit your banking information into a fraudulent site the scammer will now have access to your bank account.
  • After you make an online reservation, always call the airline or hotel company afterward to confirm. If there is no record of your reservation, it’s better to know sooner rather than later. You’ll be able to alert your credit card company, report the fraud, and still have time to book a proper reservation.

Still in doubt? Ask someone you trust or consult with a member of the University of Toronto International Student Team: