The Internet has made planning and booking a vacation easier than ever before. You don’t have to rely on family recommendations or pricey travel agents when you can explore new locales and book your lodging yourself.
But with this greater ease comes greater risk – there are lots of scammers who are ready to pounce on unsuspecting victims booking their vacations this time of year.
Here’s how to avoid scams and protect your online security while planning and booking your vacations this year.
- Know Your Scams: There are two main ways that scammers part would-be vacationers from their money, as noted by Forbes.com. The worst way is that an online posting shows pictures of a bogus property; the renter pays an upfront security deposit and the scammer disappears into the digital ether. Almost as bad are the postings that show images and details of properties that in reality are booked; the renter books them thinking they are available, then is switched to a far-less ideal spot once they actually arrive at their destination.
Always make sure that when you are making an online credit card payment you see ‘https’ in your browser’s url
- Verify the Website’s Reputation: More often than not, when you book your vacation rental you’ll be doing it through a site you’ve never heard of before. Sites like Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO might be new to you, but are becoming industry standards and are well-policed by the people who run them and strive to protect users. Other sites may be less well-established. Never trust an unknown entity. You can check a site’s reputation – and the legitimacy of specific listings – by surveying the user comments, which a trustworthy vacation site will have. Those same sites should also have contact information, and if you don’t know a site or have questions about an agent’s legitimacy, call them. Having a real conversation with them should give you an indication about their trustworthiness. Beyond that, to verify the online reputation of a website, you can use Google’s reputation tool, which analyzes known cybersecurity threats on sites. You can access it by typing in: http://google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?site=” followed by the address of the site you want to visit. You can also use Kaspersky Security Network, which uses constantly updated cloud database to analyze sites and programs for signs of the very latest malware threats.
- Pay Safe: Never pay with cash, wire transfers or money orders. Only use credit cards, which allow for money to be recovered in the event of fraud. Always make sure that when you are making an online credit card payment you see ‘https’ in your browser’s url – despite the recent Heartbleed vulnerability, this is still the most tangible evidence that your payments are secure. But you can also use Kaspersky Safe Money to provide an added layer of security to your online transactions.
- Don’t Pay on the Go: Because of the smaller screens and the different browser displays on mobile devices, it is often hard to know if you are using a secure site when making online payments. Ideally you should book and pay for your vacation from your laptop or desktop. But if you must use a mobile device, protect your tablet and/or smartphone with a mobile security suite like Kaspersky Internet Security – Multi-Device to analyze your iOS and Android devices for the latest malware threats; that suite also includes Kaspersky Safe Browser to monitor your mobile browsers to ensure their security.