Scammers pretending to be airline online accounts prey on frustrated customers

panuwat phimpha /David Herraez Calzada/

Customers who take to social media to vent their frustrations should be wary after passengers fall prey to a new scam.

According to The Washington Post, aggrieved customers have fallen prey to internet scammers pretending to be airline representatives. 

Airlines have been known to respond more swiftly when they are named and shamed online by customers – whether it’s an issue of flight delay, missing luggage or canceled tickets.

But recently, with the help of AI and more advanced online technology, scammers have been scouring social media platforms in search of complaining customers. Pretending to be airline representatives, the scammers will swoop in and reply to the customers with the customary: “We are sorry to hear about your experience. So we can help you better, please send us a private message with your PNR details,” or something similar.

When The Washington Post’s Mike Hume took to X (formerly Twitter) to complain about a delay with his JetBlue flight, a user called “Patrick” replied claiming to be a manager at the airline. 

Hume double-checked the user’s profile, but realized the account had no followers and the word manager was incorrectly spelled as “maneger”.

These are both giveaways to spot a fake account but customers are advised to be extra vigilant and carry out additional checks.

However, the “blue tick”, X and Instagram’s indication of valid accounts, can now be bought via monthly payments, so this adds to the complexity of checking for scammers.

In August 2023, a family from California lost $43,000 when hackers changed Southwest Airlines’ contact numbers on Google. The family required assistance in changing flights and googled the airline’s customer service number, which actually turned out to be a direct line to the hackers.

To find a carrier’s legit contact number, it is best to go via the airline’s website. 

Consumers who suspect they may have compromised details to a scammer are advised to report the issue to the Federal Trade Commission site.

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