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The positive trend in travel activity following the Covid-19 pandemic has unfortunately been accompanied by an alarming rise in online travel scams. According to a recent report by McAfee titled 'Safer Summer Holidays,' a substantial percentage of travellers have fallen victim to fraudulent schemes while attempting to book their vacations to save money. The report's findings are based on a comprehensive survey conducted among 7,000 individuals across seven countries, including 1,010 participants from India.
The findings indicate that a significant portion, approximately 30%, of adults have either personally experienced or their acquaintances have fallen victim to online scams while attempting to save money during the travel booking process. Alarmingly, among those affected, 34% reported losing more than USD 1,000 (Rs 83,000) even before their planned trip commenced, while 66% lost amounts up to USD 1,000 (83,000). In India, several travel scam incidents have been reported, with a recent case in Delhi where police apprehended a gang involved in defrauding individuals by selling them air tickets online and subsequently cancelling them.
According to the research, a majority of vacationers, around 62%, plan to travel within their own country this year, while 42% intend to embark on international trips. However, the study highlights emerging concerns for leisure-seekers in light of inflation and the cost-of-living crisis. As individuals seek affordable options, they may become more susceptible to falling for travel scams.
Measures to prevent travel scam
Exercise caution before clicking: Cybercriminals use phishing emails and fake sites to entice users to click harmful links. Even if a travel deal seems tempting, it's advisable to refrain from interacting with such emails altogether.
Use public Wi-Fi networks with caution: While on vacation, ensure the Wi-Fi you connect to is secure and from a trusted source. Employ a virtual private network (VPN) to safeguard your connection, personal data, and online activities when doing banking, shopping, and browsing tasks.
Verify stay details: Cross-check the property owner's name in public records to verify the legitimacy of a privately-owned vacation rental. Avoid making payments for rentals through wire transfers, prepaid cards, or gift cards, as these transactions are difficult to reverse in case of fraudulent rental offers.
What leads to a travel scam
According to the report, individuals have engaged in certain activities during travel that could potentially expose them to a higher risk of criminal activities. These activities include connecting to unfamiliar Wi-Fi networks, utilizing free USB charging ports at airports or train stations, and inadvertently leaving their digital accounts logged in after checking out their accommodations.
Types of travel scams reported
The research highlights the diverse nature of travel scams, indicating that 14% of all adults have been deceived into making payments through fraudulent platforms. In comparison, 18% have experienced identity theft during online bookings. Specifically, within this group, 7% unknowingly shared their passport information, and 11% provided other personally identifiable information to a counterfeit website.
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