Australian travellers may be left stranded at the airport holding bogus tickets at Christmas time after suffering at the hands of scammers.
A government agency has warned Australians about cheap flight deals through fake websites which have travellers believing they have bought legitimate airline tickets.
But all they have done is been skimmed of their money and left vulnerable to identity theft.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s SCAMwatch website (www.scamwatch.gov.au ) has issued warning for flight booking scams.
If you are visiting family over Christmas make sure you book your flights through a legitimate airline, flight booking or travel website, or a travel agent, the SCAMwatch says.
“Scammers set up fake websites to make you believe you are purchasing a genuine flight ticket, but when you arrive at the airport you may find your booking was a fake.”
SCAMwatch says it has received a number of reports of fraudulent traders who have copied the ABN and look of legitimate travel websites.
“These fake traders claim to sell tickets on behalf of well-known airlines, when in fact the airlines have not authorised the sale.
“After purchasing the fake tickets, victims are given a booking number but when they go to use this number they find that the booking doesnâ€™t actually exist with the airline they are supposed to be travelling on.
“Consumers may be contacted directly by fraudulent traders, or may follow links via popular social networking sites.
“Some victims have lost in excess of AU$1000 for fake international flight bookings, while others report instances of identity theft after interactions with the fake trader.”
- Be cautious when deciding to purchase really cheap airfares â€“ if it looks too good to be true it probably is.
- Check the ABN (Australian Business Number) quoted on a flight booking website is genuinely registered to the trader named on the website. You can look up an ABN on theÂ Australian Governmentâ€™s business.gov.au website.
Agrees Graham Doessel, chief executive of MyCRA,Â a national credit repairer.
“It’s all bad for these poor scam victims. At best they can be left with no holiday – but at worst fraudsters can take their personal details and use them to construct a fake identity which would allow them to borrow in their name – the ramifications of that can last for years,” Mr Doessel says.
Currently the Australian Crime Commission sites identity theft as the fastest growing crime in Australia, and a recent study presented by the Attorney-General’s office revealed 1 in 6 people have had their identity stolen or misused in some way.
The Australian government offers this advice.
- The flight booking website is not well-known, or you have never heard of it before.
- The website claims to offer flights at unusually cheap prices, some up to 50% off.
- There is no Australian contact number or address for the trader, often because they are not located in Australia despite their claims.
- The site does not have a validÂ Australian Federation of Travel AgentsÂ membership number.
- Be cautious when considering whether to purchase really cheap airfares â€“ if it looks too good to be true it probably is.
- NEVER send money or give personal details to people you donâ€™t know and trust.
- Check the ABN quoted on the website is genuinely registered to the trader named on the website. You can look up an ABN on theÂ Australian Governmentâ€™s business.gov.au website.
- If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.