After a 7-year hiatus, the infamous airline ticketing fraud scam resurfaced in 2018. The scam involved an email with a fake itinerary and a request for payment to be sent via wire transfer.
The airline ticket frauds are resurfacing after 7 years. A new scam is being used to steal money from unsuspecting travelers.
The Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) is warning travel advisers that an airline ticketing fraud scheme that had been dormant since 2014 has revived in the last seven months.
Through mid-September, ARC’s fraud detectors had detected about 80 instances of improper ticketing, totaling around $1.2 million in illicit sales.
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Successful unauthorized ticketing assaults usually involve fraudsters issuing between five and ten airline tickets using an unwary travel advisor’s global distribution system (GDS) credentials, according to ARC’s manager of fraud investigations, Doug Nass. According to him, the typical ticket price is between $800 and $1,200. Small and medium travel agents, as well as big ticket consolidators, have been the most common targets, he added.
The criminals send phishing emails to their travel advisor targets, claiming to be official communications from one of the three main GDSs—Travelport, Amadeus, and Sabre—in order to acquire the victim’s GDS credentials. ARC gave one example of fraudsters impersonating Sabre using the subject line “Sabre System Upgrade Notification Letter” in a webinar earlier this month.
The following was written on the fake communication: “At the time of signing into the bookings system, Sabre is introducing a new level 3 of security. All users must provide their member login credentials (sic). Sabre will be informed that Sabre Red Workspace has been verified after you log in.” The receiver was then instructed to click on a website to input their Sabre credentials (a typical phishing technique).
Nass said that the scam artists had been impersonating two of the three main GDSs so far, but he wouldn’t identify which one was the other besides Sabre. ARC, it seems, has not given him permission to disclose such information.
Cybercriminal. (picture courtesy of iStock/Getty Images Plus/ipopba/iStock/Getty Images Plus/ipopba)
According to Travel Weekly, Sabre and Travelport refused to comment on the matter, while Amadeus responded but did not explicitly address the problem. “We are witnessing an increasing amount of harmful efforts in the cybersecurity arena since the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic,” the firm stated. “We are collaborating with our clients to provide a set of realistic security controls and procedures that they can readily implement during these trying times.”
Nass and Cornelius Hattingh, ARC’s Director of Revenue Integrity, concurred that the fraudulent activity seems to be centered in West Africa, with tickets produced for trips from Casablanca, Morocco; Dakar, Senegal; Abidjan, Ivory Coast; and other airports.
Because of their location, the fraudsters are frequently successful in selling tickets under the table using a travel advisor’s credentials during what are considered nighttime hours in the United States. The purchasers had already boarded their flights by the time agents return to work the following day, leaving the travel agency holding the bag.
A strange email is being reviewed by a woman. (picture courtesy of iStock/Getty Images Plus/Pheelings Media/Pheelings Media)
In certain cases, Hattingh added, ARC may collaborate with the affected organization to try to invalidate the fraudulent transactions. “If a customer has already booked a flight, we recommend that the agent contact the airline directly for a refund. It becomes a perilous situation “he said
To prevent falling victim to such frauds, Nass advises travel advisers to be extra cautious. He specifically recommended that no one should ever click on an emailed link unless it was included in an email they were expecting. It’s also a good idea to double-check the sender’s address to be sure it’s coming from a well-known URL.
Phishing emails are often sent from an address with an unusual domain, one that is misspelled, or one that is just slightly different from the one used by the spoofing business.
Travel agencies should also beef up their training and ensure that every person with access to their GDS credentials is aware of the program, according to Nass.
The airline fraudsters are a group of criminals that have resurfaced after 7 years. They have been using the same methods as before, but with a new twist.
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