Tourist traps: phishers and spammers lurk behind thousands of fake flight and accommodation offers
Kaspersky Lab researchers tracking the activity of malicious spammers and phishers have uncovered multiple operations during May seeking to exploit people’s desire to secure a good bargain. Among other things, the researchers found more than 8,000 phishing attacks disguised as offers from popular lodging platforms, as well as several email blasts appearing to come from a legitimate travel brand that signed victims up to paid phone services.
Spam and phishing are among the most effective attack vectors. They manipulate and exploit human behaviour, such as brand trust, in a process known as social engineering. The campaigns are often highly convincing, with the attackers using fake sites that are almost identical to the legitimate version, and which easily trick unwary victims into handing over bank card details or paying for a product or service that doesn’t exist.
In the space of just one day (May 21), the researchers detected seven different e-mail blasts disguised as offers from popular booking platforms for airplane tickets and accommodation; with three of them appearing to offer free flights in return for completing a short online survey and sharing the link with others. After three questions, users were asked to enter their phone number, which the fraudsters then used to subscribe the victim to paid mobile services.
Alongside this, the researchers also detected phishing attacks between late April and late May, disguised as popular websites for booking rental accommodation, such as Airbnb (7,917 attacks). In one example, the fraudsters had created a phishing page that closely resembled the legitimate platform and pretended to offer victims cheap city-centre accommodation with high review scores. Once the victim confirmed the booking and transferred the money, the fraudster and the offer disappeared.
“Late spring and early summer are a popular time for scammers, as they exploit people looking for a bargain or a last-minute holiday booking. Not only are the fraudulent websites and offers increasingly convincing, more people than ever are booking flights and accommodation on a mobile device such as a smartphone, where it can be harder to spot a fake link, for example. These two trends leave travelers vulnerable to attack. We urge people to use only legitimate websites for booking tickets and accommodation and to make sure they are protected by a security solution with a strong spam and phishing filter that will spot fraudulent approaches before they get to you,” says Andrey Kostin, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab.
Kaspersky Lab recommends taking the following security measure to protect yourself from falling into spammers and phishers’ traps:
- If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. So, you’d better avoid it.
- Carefully look at the address bar before entering any sensitive information such as your login and password. If something is wrong with the URL (it’s misspelled, doesn’t look like the original or uses some special symbols instead of letters), don’t enter anything on such sites.
- Book your stay and tickets only on trusted websites of trusted providers, ideally typing the address of their website manually in the address bar.
- Don’t click on links coming from unknown sources (be it in e-mails, messengers or social networks).
- Use a security solution with behavior-based anti-phishing technologies, such as Kaspersky Security Cloud or Kaspersky Total Security, which will warn you if you are trying to visit a phishing web page.