Nearly 1 in 3 Singaporean holiday-goers encountered scams when booking trips online – and travel deals to Taiwan are the riskiest

Almost half of holiday scam victims have reported losing anywhere from S$1,000 to S$7,000 to travel deal frauds, according to McAfee.
The Straits Times

Considering an overseas trip after finding a tempting travel promotion online? You might want to check if it’s the real deal first.

A survey conducted by computer security software company McAfee with 500 Singaporean respondents revealed that nearly one in three (29 per cent) had a history of being scammed or came close to being swindled when booking a holiday online.

Findings from the survey, which was published on Wednesday (June 12), also uncovered that almost half of holiday scam victims reported losing S$1,000 to S$7,000 (US$732 to US$5,125) to fraudulent activity, with “bargain-hunting” Singaporeans at the greatest risk (34 per cent) of being duped by a supposedly good deal.

According to McAfee, cybercriminals continue to leverage consumers’ risky holiday booking habits and are targeting their favourite destinations.

Based on Singaporean travellers’ vulnerability to online fraud, the riskiest holiday destinations include:

  1. Taipei, Taiwan
  2. London, UK
  3. Bali, Indonesia
  4. Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  5. Tokyo, Japan
  6. Kyoto, Japan

Cybercriminals take advantage of the high search volumes for accommodation and deals in these destinations to entice consumers into accessing potentially malicious websites. Fraudsters would then use these websites to install malware, steal personal information and capture passwords, the company said.

Many do not check booking website’s authenticity

Noting that 30 per cent of Singaporeans book holidays via email promotions and pop-up advertisements, McAfee’s head of Southeast Asia consumer business, Shashwat Khandelwal, said that holiday-goers should validate deals, holiday rentals and flights through trusted brand websites instead.

“Once they’ve validated its authenticity, all communication and payment should be conducted via that trusted platform to help keep personal and financial information out of hackers’ hands,” he said.

McAfee revealed that around 23 per cent of Singaporeans have exposed themselves to fraud by not checking the authenticity of a website before making a holiday booking. In addition, more than a third (33 per cent) of respondents said they did not consider validating travel websites before accepting a deal, according to McAfee.

Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of holiday scam victims said they had realised the fraudulent nature of a website or reservation method only after turning up at their holiday rental to find that their booking was not actually valid.

Worryingly, roughly one in three (28 per cent) of Singaporeans surveyed said they do not know how to check the authenticity of a website.

Holiday-goers can be vulnerable even while on holiday

However, it’s not just online activity before a trip that puts holiday-goers at risk of fraud.

McAfee said it also observed that almost half (45 per cent) of respondents do not check the security of their internet connection, or have willingly connected to an unsecured network while on holiday, leaving them open to hacking activity.

Singapore travellers were also found to have a tendency to use devices for data-sensitive activities while overseas such as using Google Maps (76 per cent), checking and sending emails (67 per cent), as well as accessing banking apps (28 per cent).

While on holiday, 58 per cent of Singaporeans use work devices, while 42 per cent still check their work email. A majority of respondents also said they had connected to public Wi-Fi in hotels (80 per cent) and airports (63 per cent) before, which McAfee said could potentially put sensitive business information at risk.

Khandelwal said that while it is the responsibility of businesses to ensure appropriate security measures, “proactive” steps still need to be taken by users of work devices when they are overseas to minimise the risk of of cybersecurity threats.

Holidaymakers should keep all communications, bookings and payments on trusted platforms to safeguard information from phishing and other types of fraud, according to McAfee.

The company added that travellers can protect themselves when performing transactions on public Wi-Fi by using a virtual private network (VPN) to keep their connections secure.

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