You know the saying that “cheap things end up being more expensive”? This could be particularly true in the area of travel.
Airline ticket scams are not new, yet they continue to be on the rise. There have been numerous cases of airline ticket fraud even from the most legitimate sources. Also, with the possibility of easily creating a social media account, it is possible to become anyone online. Scammers can now take up the identity of a travel agency or even an airline.
Though scams are widely prevalent with online bookings, you could also get scammed from a travel agency which has a well established and functional office. Which is what I’ll like to focus on here.
How do these scams work in a well established company?
Here’s what the scenario would look like:
- Passenger goes to a travel agency to purchase ticket.
- Ticket is issued by travel agent and payment is made over the counter either by cash or card. This works well when payment is made by cash except in cases where the management is (dubious too and) involved in the scam.
- Ignorant passenger goes to the airport and checks in and boards the flight.
- Travel agent calls passenger (from a customer care stand point) to find out if passenger is boarded. Once confirmed, the travel agent goes ahead and voids/cancels the ticket. Tickets can be cancelled in the system when the status is still shown as ‘O’ for Open. Once the status changes to ‘F’ meaning flown, the ticket can not longer be cancelled. It may be partially refunded later depending on the conditions of the ticket.
- The entire network involving the agent, cashier and accountant all get a cut from this dubious transaction.
- Such activities are very common with First and Business class tickets. However, this doesn’t exempt economy class tickets.
How to Avoid Airline Ticket Scams
- Pay by Card Debit/Credit card for easy trace-ability. Scammers usually refuse card payment because these can be tracked. If you are dealing with an agent and they refuse card payment, its better to step back.
- Do not grant access to you computer to any agent you are on the phone with. They’d hack into your computer.
- Buy tickets from reputable Travel agencies or directly from the airline .
- Beware of calls from travel agents finding out what level of the boarding process you are. They may be tracking you just to know when to cancel/void your ticket.
- Beware of deals that look too good to be true. They may be scams. Moreover, cheap things are not always cheap or such deals have hidden costs like baggage charges, seat charges etc. Be sure of what you are paying for.
- Avoid sending money via cash transfers to individuals. If you cannot attach a face to whoever you are sending money for ticket payment to, do not.
- Ensure you have a valid flight ticket with a ticket number and booking reference(PNR) which can be confirmed with the airline before the travel date. There have been cases where travel agents hand over ticket reservations instead of valid tickets to ignorant passengers who get embarrassed at the airport.
- Ensure to have a valid proof of payment (receipt) which includes a company logo, Stamp and Authorized signature.
- When buying from a Travel agency,avoid dealing with a single individual. In a well structured organization, there would be people to handle different aspects of the business. The person issuing the ticket shouldn’t be the same receiving the cash. A lot of ticketing agents can be very dubious so beware of that.
- If you are dealing with a travel agency, if you can, its better to buy your ticket in advance. Why? This is because tickets can be voided/cancelled within 24 hrs of being issued. Dubious travel agents can cancel the ticket within this time after they know you have safely boarded the flight.
Do you know how else ticket scams can be avoided or have you been a victim of ticket fraud? Feel free to leave your comments in the comment section below.