1 in 3 travelers has been scammed when booking a trip, McAfee study finds

40% ended up losing $1,000 or more to fraudsters before they even packed their bags

Traveling tips to help ease or avoid stress.Plan Your Journey.Create an itinerary.Avoiding thinking or saying: What’s the worst that can happen?.Eat and stay hydrated. .Plan something fun for when you get home.

Plenty of travelers have already solidified plans for their summer escapes, but among those who have yet to book their trips, many cite record-high inflation and the cost-of-living crisis as the reason they’re searching the darker corners of the internet for affordable vacation options.

The results of a recent market research survey commissioned by leading internet security company McAfee found that 56% of today’s travelers are more likely to actively go hunting for bargains on travel because of increased cost concerns amid the financial pressures of today’s economic environment.

Unsurprisingly, online booking is still the order of the day and was shown to be the vast majority (94%) of travelers’ preferred trip-planning method for 2023. Unfortunately, in their desperation to snag a decent deal, global leisure travelers may be much more prone to getting lured in by a deal that’s literally too good to be true.

This means there’s perhaps more opportunity than ever for cybercriminals to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers who are increasingly willing to take some risks in order to (they hope) save a buck.

McAfee’s Safer Summer Holidays report reveals that more than 1 in 3 (35%) adult American consumers have fallen prey to an online travel booking scam before they’ve even packed their bags. Sixty percent of those victims had up $1,000 of their hard-earned dollars stolen from them, while 40% ended up losing amounts of $1,000 or more to fraudsters.

Almost half (47%) of survey respondents in McAfee’s study said they’re now more likely to seek out deals online, move quickly to snap up a bargain (47%), go through a booking site they’ve never used before (39%) or try a destination they’ve never been to before (37%).

It turns out that people probably put too much confidence in unproven and unreputable travel online booking sites. Eighty-one percent of the survey’s global respondents said they have the same level of trust in booking websites as in booking directly with a hotel or airline.

And, even when booking vacation rentals through a well-known website, 14% reported they had either fallen for a scam themselves or knew someone who had. Typically, they were redirected by the booking site to make a payment through another platform to someone whom they thought to be the property owner or manager.

Furthermore, the research found that 15% of all U.S. adults have been tricked into making payments through fraudulent platforms and 22% have had their identity stolen while booking online. Of those, 8% provided their passport information and 14% entered other personal identification information on a fake website.

Once they’re actually on their trip, the majority of travelers (63%) are more concerned about digital threats than physical ones like pickpocketing. Forty-one percent of people believe their personal information is less secure when they connect to the internet away from home, but their behavior often seems to contradict their suspicions.

Significant numbers of Americans take actions that stand to increase their risk of becoming a victim of cybercrime while they’re traveling, whether it’s connecting to an unsecured Wi-Fi network even though it looks a bit suspicious (27%), using a USB charging port at an airport or train station (31%), or leaving their streaming account logged in after checking out of their accommodations (20%).

And, while 88% of Americans reported either “some” or “high” levels of worry about their identities being stolen amid their travels, 42% actually admitted to being less vigilant and security conscious while on vacation.

McAfee discovered that, although people may be aware of the dangers, they often don’t take steps to mitigate the risk of cyberattack or identity theft. The study found that 43% of Americans don’t use any services to monitor the safety of their online identity, and 40% don’t bother to use a VPN while they’re away on vacation. Among those that do use VPNs, 22% do so in order to gain access to geo-specific streaming content.