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Vacation Cyber Threats: Beware Deceptive Deals and Summer Scams

Summer is here for most of the world, and while holidaymakers eagerly plan their escape for either relaxation or adventure, cybercriminals are using this peak travel season to exploit eager tourists.

According to Check Point Research (CPR) there was a significant surge in summer-related cyber scams in May 2024, highlighting the need for travelers to stay informed and proactive in safeguarding their personal information. Researchers specifically spotted a notable surge in newly created domains related to holidays or vacations, with a significant increase compared to the same period last year. Out of the 25,668 new domains registered, one out of every 33 was found to be either malicious or suspicious.

Whether you are planning a tropical getaway, a road trip, or an international excursion, staying vigilant against travel scams is crucial. Here are some essential tips to help all holidaymakers enjoy a safe and scam-free summer vacation.

Research thoroughly before booking

Before booking any travel arrangements, it is vital to conduct thorough research. Look up reviews on reputable sites like TripAdvisor, Google, or Yelp. Check the ratings and read multiple reviews to get a balanced perspective. Also ensure the travel agency, rental property, or tour operator is legitimate by looking for identifiable information such as physical addresses and contact numbers.

In addition to the findings outlined above, CPR also identified various malicious domains, including sites like booking-secure928[.]com, hotel-housekeeper[.]com, and agodabooking[.]top. These websites impersonate well-known travel brand website and are designed to deceive users into inputting their login credentials, potentially leading to personal information theft.

Beware of ‘Too-Good-To-Be-True’ deals

If a travel deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Extremely low prices for luxury accommodations or flights can be a red flag, so it is wise to compare prices across multiple platforms to gauge the market rate. Be especially cautious of deals that pressure you to book immediately without ample time to review the details.

Use secure payment methods

Where possible it is recommended to secure big purchases such as holidays on a credit card. They typically offer better fraud protection and the ability to dispute charges. Scammers may alternatively request wire transfers because they are difficult to trace and recover, so avoid those where possible.

Protect Personal Information

It is always best to be cautious about sharing your personal information online. Before doing so you should verify website authenticity by checking for HTTPS in the URL and look for trust indicators such as padlock symbols or site seals.

Stay alert to phishing attempts

Phishing scams are common and can be very deceptive. One campaign observed by CPR in May 2024 involved an email with the subject “Booking.com Invoice 3255753442” sent from the email address noreply@b00king[.]biz. The email contained a PDF attachment which, when opened, notifies that the reader is not supported and then redirects users to a malicious website. It is important to be sceptical about unsolicited emails offering travel deals. Verify the sender’s email address and contact the company directly through official channels.

Book through reputable sources

Booking through well-known and reputable sources can provide additional security. Use established travel booking websites and apps as these platforms often have measures in place to protect consumers. Also consider using a licensed travel agent based on personal recommendations. They can provide expert advice and are often insured against scams.

Be cautious when using social media

Social media platforms can be fertile ground for cybercriminals. According to consumer association Which? there has been a rise in bogus accounts on social media platform X impersonating major airlines in the UK including British Airways, easyJet, Jet2 and Ryanair. Be wary of travel deals and promotions from unknown profiles or pages and review your privacy settings to limit what information you share publicly.

Graeme Stewart, cyber expert at Check Point Software said: “Travelling should be a time to switch off, but you should always stay switched on to cybercriminals. By following these tips and staying vigilant, you can protect yourself from travel scams and enjoy a safe, stress-free summer vacation. Simply put, if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Trust your instincts and take the time to verify details before making any commitments.”