Planning a trip? Be careful if you’re booking it online


(WIVB) – If you are getting the urge to travel now that the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be loosening its grip, the Better Business Bureau has words of caution.

That great deal you found on the internet may be a scam.

The BBB is urging caution when turning to third party booking websites. There are the well known agencies such as Priceline, TripAdvisor, and Trivago – but scammers will create legitimate-looking websites that are nothing more than a ripoff.

Consumers desperate to get away are often finding travel hard to come by, due to rising fuel costs and labor shortages that can lead to flight cancellations, long waits at the airport, and prices going into the stratosphere.

MORE: BBB Warning: Scammers want to get your early tax check next week

“We know that people are itching to get back out there but scammers want your money, too, and what we are seeing is these fake websites popping up with airline deals – you know, bundle with your hotel, things like that,” said Melanie McGovern of the Better Business Bureau for Upstate New York.

She warns scammers can set a trap for consumers using search engines to look for good deals.

They can set up what are called “Look-alike websites” that mimic legitimate companies, or sophisticated sites that look real.

McGovern says you’ve got to check the URL for authenticity.

“So before you put your credit card in, or try to put any kind of airline flight on a third party site, you want to make sure it is legitimate,” McGovern said.

If a website is one you are not familiar with, McGovern says check with the Better Business Bureau. If it is legitimate, the BBB will usually have a report.

“If you see tickets that are really inexpensive, be careful, check out the website,” McGovern said. “See when it started, check their BBB business profile to see if there are any complaints, or even if they have one. If they don’t have one it is probably because we don’t know about them yet.”

If there is any doubt about a flight, McGovern says you can check with the airport.

“If you see, like, a direct flight to a certain destination make sure you are checking it out,” McGovern said. “You can even go to that airport and look up those flight numbers. See where those flights are going, if they are direct or not.”

The Better Business Bureau also strongly urges you to only use a credit card for online transactions for your own protection.

For more tips on avoiding airfare or booking scams from the BBB, click here.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here.

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