7 Tips to Avoid a Travel Scam When Buying Airline Tickets Online

To avoid turning the delight of “what a great price!” into dismay, one of the simplest ways to protect yourself online is by always booking with a TICO registered booking website.   

All Ontario online travel retailers are required to display their TICO registration number on their websites. It’s the law.  Don’t forfeit the consumer protection available – Look for the TICO logo and the company’s TICO Registration number. If in doubt, you can always use TICO’s Online Search feature to confirm the agency or website is registered – click here

Man walking through airport

Along with ensuring you are booking with a TICO registered travel agency website, these 7 tips will help you avoid travel scams when booking airline tickets online:

1. Make sure you are fully informed before pressing submit for an online flight booking

Before committing to any online flight booking, don’t forget to read the fine print and make sure you’re clear about what you’re actually getting. You should also ensure you know exactly who you are dealing with and only book with reputable companies you’ve heard of.  Do your research on travel companies beforehand by searching through online forums and review sites for customer warnings about scams or complaints about misleading offers.

2. Be aware of travel phishing scams

Scam sites lure you in by offering much lower prices for airline tickets than what’s posted on other sites. Once you click accept, they capture all of your important credit card details and send you a message that the credit card transaction was declined. They’ll suggest instead you pay for the tickets by wiring funds or sending a money order. Just like that, they’ve stolen your card info and your money.

3. Be sure the hotel or airline has a record of your travel booking

A third-party site claims to have booked your travel and takes your money in payment, but the hotel or airline has no record of your online booking. With that being said, be sure to check with the hotel or airline directly to confirm your travel plans.

4. Watch out for an airline ticket credit scam

Scam artists purchase airline tickets with stolen credit cards, and then cancel the tickets and get a flight credit and confirmation number. They then advertise the credit on sites like Craigslist or Kijiji, saying they can’t take the flights and offer to transfer the funds for a discounted price. To buy the ticket credit, they’ll ask you to wire them the money. Because the tickets were originally bought with a stolen credit card, the airlines won’t let you redeem the credit.

5. Read the refund or exchange policy on your flight tickets

Be sure you read and understand the refund or exchange policy of your online flight booking. You may not be able to cancel your trip or be stuck paying a significant fee to make a change.

6. Make sure you are aware of potential flight time changes

Some online travel booking sites try to save money by putting customers on cheaper flights without informing them beforehand of the time changes. This can affect other parts of your trip or travel connections. To avoid the disappointment of missing your flight or not being advised of any cancellations or delays, ensure you verify your travel arrangements at least 24 hours prior to your scheduled departure through the with the airline or applicable service provider directly. Ask them to notify you if there are any changes to your reservation.

7. Be mindful of currency exchange rates when booking flights

Some travelers book travel services and then end up paying a higher price than expected. Before you book, always check which currency the prices are being displayed on the website. Be sure to check the fine print to see if they can charge you more if the currency exchange rate changes or ask for a fixed price regardless of exchange rate differences.

For more information about avoiding travel scams, check out our past blogs How to Protect Yourself from 2 Common Vacation Scams and Travel Tips To Avoid Telemarketer Travel Scams

Book with a TICO Registered Travel Agency

To verify if a travel agency or website is TICO registered, check our online directory.  

Take the TICO Traveller Quiz to see what type of traveller you are.  

Sign up to receive quarterly travel consumer protection email updates

For more travel tips and information, visit the Smart Traveller Guide.  

All travel agencies and websites located and operating in Ontario are regulated by TICO. Registered travel agencies and websites provide additional consumer protection for your travel investment that may not be available when booking with travel agencies and websites based in other countries or provinces. For more information about how TICO helps, click here.  

Any questions can be directed to tico@tico.ca or 1-888-451-TICO (8426).