Where we go, scammers follow. The latest example exploits our booming post-lockdown interest in travel, as grifters have set up fake travel sites to steal your personal information and money. Here’s how you can avoid the scam.
How the scam works
The scam targets sites that speed travelers through airport security, like TSA Precheck, Global Entry and the Canadian version of Global Entry, NEXUS. Phony versions of these sites—as well as fake third-party company sites offering to process your paperwork—will try to trick you into providing personal information. These sites might try to charge you an “application fee” or “service fee,” which, of course, just hands over your money and credit card information to a scammer.
The real versions of these sites normally require you to share detailed personal information, including your passport number. Since the fake sites can be just as thorough, you might not notice it’s a scam until much later, either from having your money stolen or by realizing that your actual application was never processed with these government agencies.
How to protect yourself
Awareness is half the battle, so you’ll always want to be vigilant about where you find URLs for the sites you are using, and considering whether they might be fake. A sketchy Facebook ad that links to the official TSA Precheck is probably not legit, and you’d expect to find an actual government site at the very top of search engine results, not near the bottom.
The Better Business Bureau has issued an alert about this scam, and recommends the following tips:
- Double check the URL before you enter personal and payment information. Always double check that you are on the right website and that the link is secure. Secure links start with “https://” and include a lock icon on the purchase page. In the United States, all government websites end in “.gov.” In Canada, government agency websites are under gc.ca.
- Make online purchases with your credit card. Fraudulent charges made on a credit card can usually be disputed. Unfortunately, there is no way to get back the personal information you may have shared.
If you’ve run across a phony website scam, report your experience at BBB.org/ScamTracker.