Travel expert advises how to spot, avoid and prevent falling for travel scams this summer

Travel expert advises how to spot, avoid and prevent falling for travel scams this summer

A great summer vacation can include anything from adventurous outdoor activities to relaxing rambles through foreign city streets, but nothing stops pleasant plans in their tracks quite like an unexpected travel scam.

To help travelers stay on track this summer, “Good Morning America” tapped expert Katy Nastro to share her top tips and recommendations of what people can do to avoid possibly getting swindled and ultimately ensure a stress-free trip from start to finish.

Travel scams to avoid falling for this summer

Travel expert advises how to spot, avoid and prevent falling for travel scams this summer

Nastro, a regular globe trotter herself with Going.com, first warned of hackers who may attempt to steal frequent flyer miles — a situation that recently happened to her.

Upon returning from a trip earlier this year, Nastro checked her American Airlines account and told “GMA” that she “noticed the mileage account balance was extremely low to the point where I had to rethink and go through my last my last few trips within my app to make sure that I hadn’t used the points. But I knew I hadn’t, because it was such a large amount and I’ve been sort of saving them up for a trip over to Asia — so I contacted the airline immediately.”

In speaking with a customer service agent, Nastro said the airline team pulled up “a ticket redemption to somewhere in Asia with a name that I have no recollection of — nor do I know this person,” assuring it wasn’t a family member, nor was it a friend that she would have gifted miles to.

“That kicked off a month-long sort of investigation,” she said. “I had to file a formal police report within 30 days — because it’s considered property — it’s very weird because there’s not any true regulations around loyalty points, so you first have to go through the issuer, in this case American Airlines.”

The airline’s fraud team asked Nastro to set up another Advantage account with a new email and password because “I could no longer use my old account because it had been hacked.”

“Customer service is paramount to American, and we do not tolerate anyone taking advantage of our customers,” a representative told ABC News in an emailed statement. “If we become aware of a compromised AAdvantage account, we immediately take action to secure the customer’s account and work closely with the customer to resolve any fraud.”

When Nastro was at her local police station, she said the officers were somewhat familiar with the dilemma because “another person in my area, not too far away from where I live, actually had the same exact sort of situation happened with a much larger amount of miles.”

PHOTO: Stewards check tourists' day access tickets near the Grand Canal, in Venice, Italy, May 1, 2024.

Stewards check tourists’ day access tickets near the Grand Canal, in Venice, Italy, May 1, 2024.

Andrea Merola/Bloomberg via Getty Images

After the airline’s investigation resolved that “it was actual fraud,” Nastro said “it was a couple of weeks before I then saw the miles back into my account.”

“Coming out of the pandemic, people [have been] accruing so many points and miles, due to all the spending but not actual travel,” Nastro said, which she explained could lead to account holders to “not really be aware of their balances” and most likely while “using a password that they’ve used for decades” which can make accounts more vulnerable.

“These hackers were able to get in through [an] email and then take all these miles — or a portion of miles — and are not blinking an eyelash because they had accrued so many,” she said.

Tips to avoid digital travel scams

Her advice? “Change and update passwords and use a password keeper — as well as checking your account often,” Nastro suggested.

“Do not click into anything that looks sort of suspicious, even though it might look branded from the airline,” she said.

Plus, the experts at Going have seen when people experience airline issues, such as delays or cancelations, and search for customer service resources via social media, “We have heard of people getting scammed where they get sent a Whatsapp number versus the actual airline.”

“You’ve got to be so careful these days of who you’re talking to,” she said, urging folks to be wary of anyone asking specific personal details to get access to an account. “The airline will already have the information they need on you. They need your record locator and your first and last name, that’s it. They shouldn’t be asking for anything else when they’re looking at your reservation.”

Common scams to look out for if traveling abroad

Nastro also shared details about some scams that commonly take place in European cities that she said could potentially catch American visitors off guard.

PHOTO:A lost wallet lying on ground in an undated stock photo.

Friendship Bracelets

“The scammer will come over and try to put a handmade bracelet on you, explaining its significance, then ask for an exorbitant amount of money after they’ve made it difficult to take off,” Nastro warned. “Or this can be used as a distraction to then pick-pocket if there are others around.”

Single Rose or Flower

“The scammer will approach hetero couples and hand a rose to the woman. They will then chastise the man for not coughing up a large sum for the rose, or flower, often insulting him and making him embarrassed enough to pay the vendor,” Nastro said.

Photographer

“Be cautious of random people offering to take your photo, especially if alone,” Nastro said. “They sometimes will run off with your camera or phone before you’ve even setup for your shot.”

Dropped Wallet

“An empty wallet is placed in a busy area to see who will pick it up and look around to ask who might have dropped it,” Nastro explained. “In doing so, many times, we also make sure we have our own wallet, and then the thief can make a note where this is kept to try and pickpocket you later on.”

A great summer vacation can include anything from adventurous outdoor activities to relaxing rambles through foreign city streets, but nothing stops pleasant plans in their tracks quite like an unexpected travel scam. To help travelers stay on track this summer, “Good Morning America” tapped expert Katy Nastro to share her top tips and recommendations of…

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