When it comes to buying airplane tickets online, the saying “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is” couldn’t be more accurate.
It’s natural for people to look for the cheapest rates on the Internet, particularly on social media. And there are legitimate individuals and groups who use the platform to sell affordable airline tickets.
Unfortunately, just as easy for legit sellers to set up shop online, scammers have also found ways to exploit social media. These fake sellers of airline tickets have scammed many individuals over the years, ruining what would have been a beautiful vacation before it even starts.
“At this time when travel demands are surging once more, we have seen the proliferation of scammers online. Social media has been a very effective tool in democratizing travel, but it has also made fraudulent activities more common,” said Maria Paz Alberto, president of the Philippine IATA Agents Travel Association (PIATA). PIATA is an organization with 110 members under strict monitoring by IATA Singapore.
Online scams aren’t new. Before social media became mainstream, there are fake websites that delve into deceptive advertising and phishing attacks. Many of them either trick individuals into buying fake tickets, while others steal personal information which they later use for identity theft or fraud. They can even sell your data.
These scammers have since found a new place to commit their unscrupulous acts. Thankfully, there are simple steps you can do to avoid such a hassle.
The best solution to avoid these online scams is to deal only with legitimate and licensed IATA agents. You simply can’t go wrong when you choose from any of the 110 agent members of the Philippine IATA located in Metro Manila, Cebu, and Ilocos.
Here are some more tips so you don’t fall victim to dishonest individuals who sell fake airline tickets on social media.
1. Buy only from trusted travel agents.
Instead of looking for cheap discounts on social media, that may not be legit in the first place, buy airline tickets only from trusted travel agents. They are the ones who are in direct contact with airlines, so they would most likely have the best rates, too.
To check the list of legit travel agencies in the Philippines, individuals may go to the Philippine Travel Agencies Association website or check if they are a member of the PIATA.
A glaring red flag is when fake sellers give out their personal banking details. Agents from reputable Philippine travel agencies will only give out their business bank accounts, however small the amount may be.
2. Be wary of suspicious sponsored posts.
Just because a post on Facebook appeared on your timeline, with thousands of “likes,” does not make it genuine. If you receive offers of free airline tickets sent to you by a friend, do not get your hopes up just yet. No airline would give away their seats for free.
You would be better off waiting for travel marts, with legitimate PIATA travel agents in attendance. They usually hold travel marts before the high season starts, so follow their official social media pages for important announcements.
3. Review the identity of the account that made the post
Should you decide to buy airline tickets on social media from someone who seems like a legitimate travel agent, due diligence is still a must. Many times, it’s easy to spot posts that sell fake airline tickets. Look for grammatical errors or offers that are too good to be true or unrealistic. What’s more scary are the posts that look like the real thing. There are accounts that impersonate legitimate accounts, which are harder to spot.
Before engaging in these accounts, do some research. Read comments from other individuals and check if there are people who had successfully transacted with this individual/company. See also how the account responds to questions from individuals. A big red flag is when the post would not include the price of the airline ticket in the post and instead tell you that they will send you the price via direct message.
Social media is a wonderful thing. But when it comes to buying airline tickets, stick with trusted travel agents to avoid headaches that being a victim of scams entail.