Summer 2019 travel: How to avoid online scams and cybertheft

(BPT) - The summer vacation season is in full swing and you're looking for the right escape at the right price. You do some online research and suddenly there it is: the vacation of your dreams at a price you can't ignore. However, before booking, it's important to take a moment to make sure you're not falling for a scam conducted by savvy cybercriminals looking to take advantage of your wanderlust.

Approximately one in five Americans (18%) has been scammed or nearly scammed when booking a vacation online, according to a recent study from McAfee. What's more, a third (31%) of vacation scam victims were defrauded after spotting a deal that was too good to be true and 30% of travel-related scam victims reported that they lost between $1,000 and $3,000 as a result of the fraudulent activity.

The findings also show the top summer destinations hackers are targeting via potentially malicious sites:

* Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

* Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

* Amsterdam, Netherlands

* Venice, Italy

* Canmore, Canada

Taking advantage of the high search volumes for accommodations and deals in these popular destinations as well as others, cybercriminals drive unsuspecting users to potentially malicious websites that can be used to install malware and steal personal information or passwords. Unfortunately, McAfee’s survey found that nearly one-third of consumers (31%) are leaving the door open to fraud because they do not check the authenticity of a website before booking a trip online.

“Cybersecurity threats unfortunately exist during most stages of the booking and travel experience," says Gary Davis, McAfee’s Chief Consumer Security Evangelist. "However, everyone can take proactive steps to protect themselves and minimize the risk to ensure scams don’t spoil summer travel plans.”

As you're searching for your next great vacation and traveling the world, keep in mind these tips from McAfee for identifying authentic booking sites and safe surfing:

Only access verified websites.

Only click on websites that your security software has identified as being safe. For example, McAfee WebAdvisor will identify safe websites with a green check mark and will block malware and phishing sites if you accidentally click on a malicious link from your search results.

Use trusted platforms and verified payment methods when finalizing your bookings.

Fraudsters may try to lure you away from a trusted platform with the promise of discounted rates. Remember to keep all your communications and bookings on trusted platforms, and verify the site before entering payment information. This will help protect you from phishing and other cyber fraud.

Utilize an identity theft solution.

With all this personal data floating around online, it’s important that you protect your identity. Use an identity theft solution, such as McAfee Identity Theft Protection, to help protect personally identifiable information from identity theft and fraud.

Always connect with caution.

If you have to conduct transactions on a public Wi-Fi connection, use a virtual private network (VPN) like McAfee Safe Connect to help keep your connection secure.

Go with your gut.

If it feels like the deal is too good to be true, it probably is. If your gut is telling you something seems off, do a little digging or simply visit a different site you know is reputable. Bon voyage!

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