Up to 900% surge in travel scams, Warns Booking.com

Cristina POPOV

June 21, 2024

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Up to 900% surge in travel scams, Warns Booking.com

Booking.com has warned over a significant increase in travel scams, attributing the rise to the advent of artificial intelligence (AI). Marnie Wilking, the company's head of internet safety, reported a staggering "500 to 900% increase" in such scams over the past 18 months.

AI helps scammers create fake emails

Wilking highlighted a notable spike in phishing scams, where victims are deceived into revealing their financial information. Phishing attacks often involve sending fake yet convincing booking links to extract credit card details. Platforms like Booking.com and Airbnb are common targets because they host user-generated listings. Once a payment is made, scammers either disappear, leaving the victim without accommodation or attempt further scams through follow-up messages.

In the past, these scams were easier to detect due to noticeable errors like spelling and grammatical mistakes. However, Wilking noted at the Collision technology conference in Toronto that generative AI tools like ChatGPT now enable scammers to craft much more realistic emails that are harder to identify as fraudulent.

Related: How Hackers Hijack Hotel Accounts on Booking.com to Scam You. Spot and Avoid These 6 Booking.com Scams for a Safe Holiday

AI helps good guys, too

Despite the increase in AI-driven scams, Wilking mentioned that the same technology is assisting Booking.com in quickly identifying and removing fraudulent listings. "We have developed AI models that can detect and block fake listings or remove them before any bookings occur," she said.

Scamio is an AI-powered scam detector designed to combat scammers. If you have suspicions about a potential scam, you can submit any text, message, link, QR code, or image to Scamio for analysis. Scamio breaks down the content to identify key elements such as sender information, message structure, and language patterns. It then compares the content against a set of predefined rules and Bitdefender's extensive database of known scams and phishing attempts. If Scamio detects any suspicious elements or matches them with a known scam, it immediately alerts you so you can avoid falling victim to it.

Scamio is free and available on Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and your web browser. You can also help others stay safe by sharing Scamio with them in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Romania, Australia, and the UK.

Related: How to Tell the Difference Between a Holiday Scam and a Genuine Good Deal

How to protect yourself from travel scams

Recommendations For Travelers

  1. Enable Two-Factor Authentication: Add an extra layer of security to your accounts.
  2. Be Cautious with Links: Avoid clicking links from unknown sources or suspicious emails. Check them with Scamio.
  3. Verify Contact Information: Ensure that the website you are booking from provides clear contact details, including a phone number.
  4. Book Package Holidays: Opt for package holidays instead of separate bookings for better protection.
  5. Use Credit Cards: Pay with credit cards to enhance your protection against fraud.

Related: 10 Tips to Help You Avoid Online Scams When Booking Your Holiday

Recommendations for Hosts

1. Verify Your Identity: Make sure your profile and listing are fully verified by the platform you are using. Submit all necessary documentation and proof of ownership to establish trust with potential guests.

2. Use Two-Factor Authentication: Enable two-factor authentication on your account to add an extra layer of security and protect it from unauthorized access.

3. Communicate Through the Platform: Always use the platform's messaging system for all communications with guests. Avoid sharing personal contact details until the booking is confirmed to protect against phishing and scam attempts.

4. Set Clear and Accurate Listings: Provide detailed and accurate descriptions of your property. Include high-quality photos and specify all amenities and rules clearly to avoid misunderstandings.

5. Screen Potential Guests: Review guest profiles and read reviews from other hosts before accepting a booking. Contact the guest through the platform to ask any necessary questions and ensure they are legitimate.

6. Report Suspicious Activity: Immediately report any suspicious inquiries or activities to the platform. Be vigilant for signs of phishing, such as requests for off-platform payments or unusual questions.

7. Keep Records and Documentation: Maintain detailed records of all bookings, communications, and transactions. This can be helpful if you need to resolve disputes or report scams.

8. Educate Yourself About Scams and Use the Best Protection for Your Devices. Stay informed about common scam tactics and how to avoid them. Also, consider using  Bitdefender Ultimate Small Business Security, an all-in-one solution for small home office companies with 25 or fewer employees. It provides comprehensive security to protect your devices, digital activities, and sensitive data from all angles. This solution is designed to be effortless, allowing you to fortify your defenses without any technical expertise.

Check out plans here.



Cristina POPOV

Cristina is a freelance writer and a mother of two living in Denmark. Her 15 years experience in communication includes developing content for tv, online, mobile apps, and a chatbot.

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