In case you’re trying to squeeze in one final piece of summer, take extra caution when seeking to book any flights online. Yes, you can lose big money and then enhance your travel headaches should you get tricked by a website that’s impersonating Southwest Air Lines or some other big name.
One Michigan family nearly lost when they attempted to re book a trip to Japan about what seemed like a Southwest website.
It’s a great warning, as summertime traveling is stuffed with flight delays and other accidents.
Naomi Poel, , and her husband, Hunter Pulaski, who reside in Ada Township, were intending to shoot their year old daughter Holley Poel to visit family in Japan. The family was already at their in laws house, which is close to the airport, when they had been alerted their a.m. flight that afternoon would be delayed.
Travelers warned to take extra care when trying to book travel. One Michigan family nearly lost to a fake travel website impersonating Southwest Air Lines.
They worried that one delay on the present flight would lead them to miss a connecting flight. And what would occur if the family couldn’t sit together? Could the year old somehow end up in a row by herself?
They started Googling for an answer.
"Unfortunately, performing a Google search isn’t always likely to get you a fantastic result," said Troy Baker, director of communications to the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan.
The very first thing popped up in their online search was for a website that indicated it was connected to Southwest but it wasn’t.
Just like a great deal of things, lots of online websites are copying big brand names to try to gain your trust in regards to traveling.
"You have to be somewhat careful when clicking online advertisements. It’s very easy for a scammer to impersonate a legitimate business. Rather than clicking the link, visit the company directly to purchase tickets," said Laura Blankenship, director of marketing to your Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan.
You may encounter a fake airline, a less than upfront travel broker or another phony website when you’re trying to book a quick trip. That’s true even in case you get an email out of the blue that appears legitimate.
Baker said the website that imitated Southwest did look like the actual deal with all the first words on the website saying "We, in Southwest Air Lines. "
Yet, Baker said, there were several red flags. The website used a picture of a plane with no Southwest emblem. Really?
Somehow since they clarified the company’s story, the website started using lyrics from "The Brady Bunch" and "Laverne & Shirley" TV theme songs. One part even said "That’s the way we became the Brady Bunch. "
Nevertheless, Baker said scammers are using only enough of the appropriate wording to deceive someone in rush.
The actor James McAvoy, for instance, confessed in October he was nearly scammed from nearly , when planning a family vacation to southwest reservations Spain. He had tried to book a visit to the Ritz Carlton but the website wasn’t the real resort website.
Baker noted that one way McAvoy prevented the scam was stopping in his tracks when he was asked to send personal data, like a picture of his passport, for its resort booking.
"This could happen to absolutely everybody, this big Hollywood star," Baker said.
Read a lot of any fine print. Don’t rush to provide any money. Pay with a credit card rather than a debit card when possible, as credit cards offer customers more protections. Do not post your email address or other reservation info publicly.
And stay far away from any broker or travel website that demands you pay for any service or traveling expenditures with gift cards.
"Fraud is rapidly increasing in the travel business and also the possibility you may land on a fake airline or travel agent website is unfortunately actual," in accordance with the International Air Transport Association.
Websites often look professional and may display some sorts of logos, like a fake IATA logo. The IATA website even includes a code checking tool that will assist you spot a fake travel broker.
Expedia has seen scammers try to benefit from its brand, also. Some of its customers have seen bogus advertisements containing fake customer support amounts. If you call such a number, then the scammers then can ask consumer to purchase gift cards to pay for a service.
Expedia recommends that customers avoid using online search engines to find its client support number until the search engines can ensure they’ve fixed the issue.
"Hang up in the event that you believe you have reached Expedia, but the person who you are talking to asks you to purchase a gift card or wire money to them," Expedia said.
Southwest claims that the only way to ensure you’re doing business with the airline is to visit www.Southwest.com or call . Or download and utilize the Fly Southwest mobile app.
"Any time you handle a third party website claiming to represent Southwest Air Lines, you risk compromising your personal info, as scammers are somewhat more often trying to abuse the trust you put in us by impersonating Southwest using illegitimate sites and outlets before defrauding you," Southwest said in online alert.
Naomi Poel said said the family found that the impostor website as it showed up in that top of a Google search. However, they saved their money since they maintained fuming that they were going to have to pay an extra and going to have to wait to travel until the following day.
"We thought we were dealing with Southwest. So we were super angry with Southwest," she said.
The family later went to the airport and headed right to the Southwest desk.
When they talked with someone in Southwest, they heard the website they believed was Southwest was a third party firm. She said Southwest called and worked together with this third party to get a refund for the service charge that was around the bunch ‘s credit card. Agents with the actual Southwest Airlines told the family the airline would have re booked their tickets for free.
"I don’t need this to occur to anybody else," Poel, a grade school art teacher originally told WOOD TV at Grand Rapids.
Oftentimes, customers aren’t so lucky to get their money back.
"We’re seeing a great deal more of the kind of thing," Baker warned. "A typical scammer isn’t going to provide you that refund. "