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Booking.com reports 900% surge in travel scams

Booking.com reports 900% surge in travel scams

Travel Scams

Booking.com is sounding the alarm about a staggering explosion in travel scams, driven significantly by artificial intelligence (AI). The company’s internet safety chief, Marnie Wilking, revealed that there has been “anywhere from a 500 to a 900% increase” in travel-related scams over the past 18 months. A notable surge has been seen in phishing attacks, where individuals are deceived into sharing their financial details, particularly since the emergence of generative AI tools such as ChatGPT.

We’ve had phishing since the dawn of email, but the uptick started shortly after ChatGPT got launched,” said Wilking. She highlighted that attackers are now leveraging AI to craft phishing emails that are far more convincing than before. These sophisticated scams often trick victims into revealing their card details by presenting fake yet plausible-looking booking links on websites like Booking.com and Airbnb.

After securing payment, scammers typically disappear, leaving victims without accommodation or pursuing further fraudulent activities. Historically, these scams have been easy to spot due to telltale signs like spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. However, Wilking, speaking at the Collision technology conference in Toronto, pointed out that AI now allows scammers to generate realistic images and impeccably accurate text, making their schemes harder to detect.

Travel scams surge with AI boost

In response to this growing threat, Wilking advocates for the use of two-factor authentication. This additional security measure involves inputting a code sent to one’s phone and is hailed as “the best way to combat phishing and credential stealing.” She also emphasized the need for heightened vigilance when clicking on links.

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Interestingly, while denouncing the misuse of AI by scammers, Wilking acknowledged that the same technology is aiding Booking.com in swiftly removing fake listings aimed at defrauding users. We’ve set up AI models to detect those and either block them from getting on there to begin or take it down before there’s any booking,” she explained. Consumer expert Jane Hawkes urged travel providers to amplify their efforts in educating the public about these scams.

They also have a responsibility to advise travellers on ways to minimize the risk of being scammed,” she stressed. She advised consumers to exercise due diligence, ensuring that contact details and telephone numbers are readily available on websites. Booking package holidays and using a credit card can also offer added protection.

As travel scams increase in sophistication, the combined vigilance of both providers and consumers is crucial in combating this evolving threat.

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