Tourists in Australia have been cautioned about a scam that targets people booking vacation rentals through the travel website Tripadvisor. Users of the site who show interest in rentals on the website’s FlipKey service are emailed by the scammers who have hacked into the rental property owners’ email accounts. The hacker-scammers pose as owners. Site users have been conned into sending rental money to the scammers while the real property owners know nothing of the rental reservation.
FlipKey, a TripAdvisor company, denies responsibility as the scammers have breached property owners’ email accounts and not the FlipKey site.
As more and more business and purchases are conducted on the Internet, con-artists will have increased opportunities to hack legitimate email accounts and websites. While it is common in the vacation home rental market for property owners to require payment by bank transfer, as they have not established merchant accounts for credit card processing, payment by credit card (never a debit card!) provides travelers with the best protection.
Clearly, dealing with a well-known website – as shown in this instance with TripAdvisor and its “trusted partners worldwide” – does not guaranty protection from being conned. There’s a definite feeling of satisfaction when we can research our vacation plans, consult our friends and web review sites, make all the reservations and have all our plans go smoothly. How often does this really happen? And what is the cost, in terms of time and money, when it doesn’t?
“While it is true the Internet can be a useful resource and even a good way to book some travel arrangements directly, the Internet can also be deceptively helpful. There’s too much information out there, and much of it is not quality controlled. Just because a website looks good doesn’t mean its information is valuable, accurate or unbiased.” Tripology.com a division of Rand McNally
Consider the advantages of using a professional travel agent for your vacation whether you’re taking off to visit friends and family or planning a relaxing week at an exotic beach resort. Travel agents are people, not call centers or faceless individuals on the other end of an email. In addition to knowing the ins and outs of destinations from personal experience, training and individual contacts with tour operators and wholesalers, they offer a level of protection from con-artists who can infiltrate supposedly reputable websites.