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How a third of Aussies are getting scammed when booking travel

Today, McAfee Corp., a global leader in online protection, revealed Australia-specific findings from its new ‘Safer Summer Holidays’ Travel Report. The report surveyed 7,000 people across seven countries to discover how safe it is to plan and book travel online, and how cautious people are when interacting with digital tools while traveling abroad.  The research reveals 29% of Aussies have fallen victim or know someone who has fallen victim to an online scam while trying to save money when booking travel. 35% of those who had money stolen have lost $500-$1,000 before their trip has even begun, while 59% lost up to $1,000.

Key Findings:

  • As Aussies get ready for summer holiday travel, inflation and cost-of-living concerns drive 66% of vacationers to seek out bargain holiday deals
  • 1 in 3 Australians have been scammed when booking, with a third (35%) of those losing $500-$1,000
  • 61% of all adults worry more about digital safety than physical safety when on vacation

60% of Aussies will travel domestically this year and 44% will do so internationally. With inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, the research reveals new concerns for leisure-seekers who, in their quest for a good deal, may be more likely to fall for a scam. With 72% of people booking travel online this year, it can be easy to get lured into a deal that’s too good to be true. In today’s economic environment, adults are more likely to seek out a bargain deal online (66%), move quickly to snap up a deal (51%), try a new booking site (36%) or even a new destination (37%), to save money. However, travel seekers need to stay vigilant to avoid falling for a scam.

Travel scams can take many forms, with the research finding 7% of all adults have been tricked into making payments through fraudulent platforms and 8% have had their identity stolen when booking online. Of this portion, 4% entered passport information and 8% provided other personally identifiable information to a fake website.

Discrepancy Between Consumers’ Sentiments & Behaviors

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The research also uncovered a discrepancy between people’s sentiments and behaviors, as well as online safety best practices, when travelling.

In total, 34% of Aussies are more concerned about digital threats than physical ones, such as being pickpocketed, when traveling, and 83% of adults hold either some or high concern around their identity being compromised as part of their travel. Despite this, 17% admitted to being less security conscious when on holiday. Whether it’s connecting to Wi-Fi networks even though they look a bit suspicious (22%), using a free USB charging port at an airport or train station (31%), or leaving their Netflix account logged in after checking out of their accommodation (18%), significant numbers of people have engaged in activities that could put them at increased risk of crime while traveling. It’s not that people are unaware of the dangers either. While 46% of people think their personal information is less secure when they connect to the internet while on vacation, 39% make use of any services to monitor the safety of their online identity, and 59% don’t use a VPN while on vacation. Of those that do, 16% only do so because they want to stream geo-specific content.

Knowing the risks doesn’t stop travelers from engaging in this type of behavior.

While social media is by far the most common online activity for people to use their phones for while on vacation (65%), also common are chatting with friends and family (62%), online banking (51%) and sending money via apps such as PayPal or Venmo (20%). Of course, it’s not just adults that use the internet while traveling, with 65% of respondents saying that their children spend time online, too. The relaxed attitude of adults on holiday also applies to the kids, with 35% of parents saying they’re either less vigilant when it comes to monitoring their children’s internet use while on vacation or only do so when at home.

As Aussies embrace the festive season and head off for their summer holiday vacations, Tyler McGee, Head of APAC, McAfee, emphasises the crucial need for heightened vigilance, especially during Christmas and New Year’s. From planning the perfect getaway, to connecting to airport Wi-Fi, maintaining alertness, and taking precautionary measures are essential to safeguard against holiday travel scams. Taking proactive steps to manage your security, privacy, and online identity ensures a safer and more secure enjoyment of the well-deserved holiday season for Australians.

How to Protect Yourself from Online Summer Travel Scams

  • Think before you click. Cybercriminals use phishing emails or fake sites to lure people into clicking links that could lead to malware. If you receive an email asking you to click on a link, even if the travel deal sounds great, it’s best to avoid interacting with the message altogether. Always go direct to the source and book with reputable companies.
  • Connect with caution. Be cautious when connecting to public Wi-Fi while on vacation and make sure the Wi-Fi is secure and attached to a trusted source. Use a virtual private network (VPN) to keep your connection secure and to protect your personal data and activity as you bank, shop, and browse online.
  • Check before you book. When confirming if a privately-owned vacation rental is legitimate, check the name of the property owner in public records. Don’t pay for rentals by wire transfer, prepaid cards or gift cards. These types of transactions often can’t be reversed if the rental offer is fraudulent.
  • Use a holistic security solution with identity and privacy protection. From identifying malicious sites before booking, use of VPN, to identity theft protection that safeguards and monitors for personally identifiable information, a holistic security solution such as McAfee+ can give you peace of mind this summer travel season.
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