These booking schemers make the skies less friendly - Albuquerque Journal

These booking schemers make the skies less friendly

As if perilous air fares and canceled flights weren’t enough, consumers are also having to deal with bogus airline representatives trying to steal their money.

The thieves are doing it through email or text messages that tell you your upcoming flight has been scuttled and you will need to rebook, according to the Better Business Bureau.

Included in the message is a phone number to call, and once you do, the fake airline says it will book you a new ticket. You will, though, have to pay a fee.

Ultimately, you will learn nothing was wrong with your flight in the first place, but “you just gave your credit card details to a con artist,” the BBB says.

One victim described a somewhat different scheme in which she thought she was buying United Airlines tickets through a company that supposedly offered discounted prices. Shortly after she made the reservation, she got a call saying the flight had been canceled.

“They wanted permission to put me on another flight with Southwest and said it would be $80 extra,” she told the BBB. She learned there was no cancellation and, in fact, she had not really purchased the ticket.

Here are ways to avoid this, the BBB says:

• Some of the cancellation messages can appear to be real, so double check flight deals before taking any action. Also, check with the airlines through a contact method you find independently.

• Confirm the email’s URL to make sure you’re on the right website before entering any personal or payment information. Secure links start with “https//” and include a lock icon on the purchase page.

• Be cautious if you’re using a third-party website. Consider it a red flag if a website does not have a working customer service number or physical address.

FAKE BUYERS, SO BEWARE: For those who are selling items online or spreading the word about a lost pet, watch out for the Google Voice scam.

This involves an effort by fake buyers whose goal is to steal personal information via a Google Voice account, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (idtheftcenter.org).

Google Voice is a free service with which you can set up a single phone number for all your devices. It requires an existing U.S.-based mobile phone or landline service to link to the Google Voice phone number. When you sign up, Google sends a text message to your existing number with a verification code.

Scammers pretend they’re interested in something you’re selling online or claim to have found your pet. But they’ll say they need to confirm that you’re a legitimate seller or that you’re really the pet’s owner, for example.

They’ll want to do that by sending a code to your phone that they’ll ask you to give to them. What they are really doing is linking your legitimate U.S. phone number to their Google Voice account. That way, they can create another account in your name and use it to scam other people.

The resource center says it saw a “massive jump” in Google Voice scams last year. In the first half of this year, 37% of scam contacts it has received has been about the Google Voice scam.

The resource center’s advice: “To completely avoid a Google Voice verification scam, only do business in person with verified funds. Take your time while selling items online. If someone asks you to share a Google verification code with them, don’t do it.”

Contact Ellen Marks at emarks@abqjournal.com or (505) 823-3805 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1 (844) 255-9210, prompt 5. Complaints can be filed electronically at nmag.gov/file-a-complaint.aspx

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