Explainer – three travel scams to watch out for while chasing a European or North American summer

  • Scams

NAB shares the three travel scams to watch out for as hundreds of thousands of Aussies prepare escape winter down under and travel to Europe or North America.

  • 06.06.2024
  • Time to read 1 min read


Person at a computer holding a phone in one hand.

Accommodation booking impersonation scams often involve phishing and requests for payment to confirm a reservation.

Accommodation or booking website impersonation scams

How the scam works

Accommodation booking impersonation scams were in the spotlight earlier this year and centre around requests for payment to confirm a reservation.

Thousands of people who used a major travel booking website received emails purportedly from their hotel requesting payment be finalised or for payment card details shared. Other scams involve criminals setting up fake websites for accommodation. While the actual hotel may exist, you are booking on a bogus website, sending money to criminals when no real room is reserved.

NAB Executive, Group Investigations Chris Sheehan said there were criminal-run websites selling cruise vouchers to Florida or package deals to Disneyland but the purchaser never received anything.

Consistent with phishing scams more broadly, the criminal’s goal is to get you to click on a link in an email or text message and then enter personal or payment details. Phishing is among the top four scam types NAB customers report.

Red flags to look for

  • The biggest red flag is an email or message request to verifying the payment details you used or risk losing the hotel or accommodation reservation.
  • Being asked to pay for accommodation via bank transfer.
  • The accommodation has no or very few reviews or previous bookings.
  • Being issued a voucher after purchasing accommodation online.

How to protect yourself

  • Type the website address into your browser directly to minimise the likelihood of clicking on a bogus link.
  • Never be pressured to enter your payment details or click on a link.
  • If you get a request for payment once you’ve already booked and paid for accommodation, contact the accommodation provider or website’s customer service via details you’ve sourced independently.
  • Google the accommodation website and the word “scam”.
Image of people at a concert with mobile phones held up and bright stage lights.

Ticket scams are a type of buying and selling scam, which are in the top five scams NAB customers report.

Concert, event and attraction ticket scams

How the scam works

A jam-packed international events calendar means there’s plenty of opportunity for ticket scams.

In addition to the usual Grand Slams and Grand Prixes, Paris will host the Summer Games, while Germany will stage Euro 2024.

There’s also major concerts happening in the northern hemisphere summer. Taylor Swift’s Eras tour heads to the UK and Europe, while Billy Joel will play his final residency show at New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden.

Ticket scams are a type of buying and selling scam, which are in the top five scams NAB customers report. More broadly, Australians lost $45m to these scams in 2023, according to the ACCC’s Scamwatch.

These scams often start on social media platforms, with criminals often responding to fans who post looking for tickets or even listing fake ones online themselves.

“During Taylor Swift’s Australian tour, there were instances of scammers hacking social media profiles and selling bogus tickets to the account owner’s friends, who aren’t aware someone else is controlling the account,” Mr Sheehan said.

He said ticket scams played on people’s fear of missing out.

Customers might receive a proactive alert in the NAB app or Internet Banking if a payment showed signs it may be a ticket scam. These real time alerts are designed to get customers to stop and consider in the moment where they’re about to send money,” Mr Sheehan said.

Red flags to look for

  • Tickets for an in-demand concert, event or attraction are for sale on social media.
  • The tickets are heavily discounted or cheaper than the retail price.
  • Social media profiles selling tickets are newly created, based overseas, have random usernames or furiously re-tweet.
  • The seller claims they can prove tickets are legit, by sending you emails or screenshots.
  • The seller wants you to pay via cryptocurrency or direct money transfer.

How to protect yourself

  • Look for tickets through official resellers.
  • If possible, pick up the phone and talk to the seller directly before sending money.
  • Remember, if the price of tickets sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Review the seller’s profile in detail to see when it was created, how active they are and if they have any reviews.
  • Be sceptical. Do a reverse image search and if you see the same image of tickets or proof of purchase on other websites, it’s probably a scam.
  • Consider paying for tickets via credit card. Private sales don’t offer buyers any protection if the ticket isn’t real.

Overcharging or wrong charging scams play on distraction and a lack of detail.

Overcharging or wrong charge scams

How the scam works

Taxis, rideshares, restaurants, currency exchanges and visas are ripe for overcharging scams. While you are legitimately using and paying for a service, these scams are all about stretching the cost that little bit more in the hope that you won’t notice.

“We’ll always do what we can but it’s often very hard to recover money once it’s in a criminal’s account. That’s why we need to stop the crime before it happens,” Mr Sheehan said.

Red flags to look for

  • Claims the taxi metre isn’t working or certain routes are busy or streets are closed.
  • Restaurants and bars in tourist hot spots insisting there’s a mandatory tip or the cost of basic items like mineral water seem higher than you’d expect.
  • The bill includes overpriced dishes that never arrive at the table.
  • Distraction and double counting at currency exchanges.
  • Websites for currency exchanges or visas that are sponsored search results.
  • Websites with unusual URLs. For example the URL contains numbers in place of a letter (eg one instead of L), a variation or slight misalignment of the brand or service’s name with the addition of an unnecessary or descriptive word like “official”.

How to protect yourself

  • Only catch a taxi or a rideshare from designated, signed areas and check the meter is working before the trip begins.
  • Research the route in advance so you’ve got a sense of how much the trip will cost and how long it should take.
  • Be mindful of sharing with the driver if it’s your first time in a country or city.
  • Always double check the bill or meter before paying.
  • Research the exchange rate in advance and count the money carefully before you leave the money exchange or shop.
  • The same goes for researching the cost of visas. Check the Smart Traveller and local Australian embassy websites as a starting point. If a website doesn’t seem quite right, type the website address in directly and independently rather than clicking on a link to access it.

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