Subscribe Us Warns of Up to 900% Increase in Travel Scams

In a startling revelation, has sounded an alarm on the alarming increase in travel scams, which has surged by up to 900% over the past 18 months. The company attributes much of this spike to advancements in artificial intelligence (AI). Marnie Wilking, the head of internet safety at, highlighted that there has been a significant rise in phishing scams since the introduction of generative AI tools like ChatGPT.’s internet safety chief, Marnie Wilking

The Surge in AI-Driven Scams

Marnie Wilking noted that phishing scams, where victims are tricked into divulging their financial details, have dramatically increased. "Phishing has existed since the early days of email, but there was a noticeable surge after the release of ChatGPT," Wilking noted. She emphasized that AI is enabling attackers to create more sophisticated and believable phishing emails than ever before.

Phishing attacks often involve sending fake, yet convincing, emails that appear to come from reputable sources. These emails typically contain links to fraudulent websites designed to steal personal information. The rise of AI has made these attacks more convincing, as AI can generate realistic images and highly accurate text in multiple languages, making the scams harder to detect.

The Mechanics of AI-Enhanced Phishing

Traditionally, phishing emails were riddled with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, which served as red flags. However, AI tools can now produce polished and professional-looking content, increasing the likelihood that recipients will fall for the scams. These fraudulent emails often mimic legitimate booking confirmations from well-known travel websites like and Airbnb. When victims click on the links within these emails, they are directed to fake websites where they are asked to enter their payment details. Once the scammers have this information, they can empty bank accounts or make unauthorized purchases.

Phishing is not a new phenomenon, but the sophistication brought by AI has transformed it into a more formidable threat. AI’s ability to personalize and refine phishing emails makes them incredibly difficult to distinguish from legitimate communications. Scammers can now easily create emails that include the recipient’s name, travel details, and other personal information, making the deception even more convincing.

The Role of Generative AI Tools

Generative AI tools like ChatGPT have revolutionized the way content is created. These tools can generate human-like text based on the input they receive, allowing scammers to produce realistic emails and fake booking confirmations. The capability of these AI tools to understand and replicate human language nuances has made phishing emails nearly indistinguishable from genuine ones.

AI-generated content can also bypass traditional security measures that rely on detecting common phishing characteristics, such as unusual wording or formatting. This advancement means that even tech-savvy individuals who are cautious about phishing scams can be fooled. The result is a significant increase in successful phishing attempts and, consequently, a rise in financial losses for victims.

Targeting Popular Travel Platforms

Scammers frequently target popular travel platforms like and Airbnb because these websites allow individuals to list their properties for rent. This feature makes it easier for scammers to create fake listings that appear legitimate. Once a victim makes a payment, the scammer either disappears, leaving the victim without accommodation, or continues to extract money through follow-up messages. and Airbnb are particularly attractive targets for scammers because of the volume of transactions that occur on these platforms. The high demand for travel accommodations means that users are often eager to secure bookings quickly, sometimes overlooking red flags in the process. This urgency is exploited by scammers who create enticing but fraudulent listings to lure in unsuspecting victims.

The Disappearing Act: How Scammers Operate

After a victim has paid for a fake booking, scammers typically vanish without a trace. They might deactivate their fake listing and delete any associated accounts, making it difficult for victims to track them down. In some cases, scammers may continue to engage with the victim, requesting additional payments for various fabricated reasons, such as security deposits or cleaning fees. Each interaction is designed to extract more money before the scammer finally cuts off all communication.

These scams are not limited to one-time transactions. Some scammers establish long-term schemes, maintaining communication with multiple victims over extended periods to maximize their financial gain. By the time the victim realizes they have been scammed, the perpetrators have often moved on to new targets, leaving a trail of financial damage in their wake.

The Evolution of Travel Scams

Travel scams have evolved significantly over the years. Initially, these scams were relatively unsophisticated, often involving poorly written emails and obviously fake websites. However, with the advent of AI, the level of sophistication has increased dramatically. Scammers can now create fake listings complete with high-quality photos, detailed descriptions, and convincing user reviews.

AI also enables scammers to respond to inquiries in real-time, providing personalized responses that enhance the illusion of legitimacy. This evolution has made it more challenging for both consumers and platforms to detect and prevent scams. The seamless integration of AI into these fraudulent schemes highlights the need for more advanced security measures and heightened awareness among travelers.

Combatting AI-Driven Scams

In response to the rise in AI-driven scams, has implemented several measures to protect its users. One of the most effective strategies is the use of two-factor authentication (2FA). This security feature requires users to provide an additional form of verification, such as a code sent to their phone, in addition to their password. By adding this extra layer of security, aims to make it more difficult for scammers to access user accounts and steal personal information.

Wilking emphasized the importance of 2FA in combatting phishing and credential-stealing attempts. “Two-factor authentication is the best way to combat phishing and credential stealing,” she said. She also urged travelers to be more vigilant than ever when clicking on links, especially those received via email.

The Role of AI in Detecting Scams

While AI has been a boon for scammers, it is also a valuable tool for detecting and preventing fraud. has developed AI models to identify and block fake listings before they can affect users. These models analyze various data points, such as listing details, user behavior, and transaction patterns, to detect anomalies that may indicate fraudulent activity.

“We’ve set up AI models to detect those and either block them from getting on there to begin with or take them down before there’s any booking,” Wilking explained. By leveraging AI, can quickly identify and remove fraudulent listings, protecting users from potential scams.

The Importance of Awareness and Education

Consumer expert Jane Hawkes stressed the need for increased awareness and education to combat travel scams. She called on travel providers to step up their efforts in informing customers about the risks and how to avoid them. "Travel companies must inform travelers on how to reduce the risk of scams," she stated.

Hawkes advised travelers to conduct thorough research before making any bookings. This includes checking that contact details are readily available on the website and ensuring there is a telephone number for customer support. Scam websites often lack these details, making it easier to identify them as fraudulent.

Practical Tips for Avoiding Travel Scams

To avoid falling victim to travel scams, Hawkes recommended several practical tips:

  1. Verify Contact Information: Ensure that the website provides clear and accessible contact details, including a phone number. Legitimate businesses typically offer multiple ways for customers to reach them.

  2. Use Trusted Platforms: Book accommodations through well-known and reputable platforms like and Airbnb, which have established security measures and customer support systems in place.

  3. Check Reviews and Ratings: Look for user reviews and ratings for both the property and the host. Be cautious of listings with few or no reviews, or those with overwhelmingly positive feedback that seems too good to be true.

  4. Avoid Wire Transfers: Avoid making payments via wire transfer or other methods that are difficult to trace. Use secure payment methods, such as credit cards, which offer additional protections against fraud.

  5. Be Skeptical of Unsolicited Emails: Be cautious of unsolicited emails that prompt you to click on links or provide personal information. Verify the authenticity of the email by contacting the company directly through their official website.

  6. Book Package Holidays: Consider booking package holidays, which often include both flights and accommodations. This can provide additional security and protection compared to booking each component separately.

  7. Use a Credit Card: Whenever possible, use a credit card for bookings. Credit cards typically offer better fraud protection than debit cards and can help you recover your money if you fall victim to a scam.

The Future of Travel Scams

As technology continues to evolve, so too will the tactics used by scammers. The integration of AI into travel scams is just the beginning. As AI becomes more advanced, scammers will likely develop even more sophisticated methods to deceive travelers. This highlights the necessity of being informed and alert.

Travel providers must continue to innovate and enhance their security measures to stay ahead of scammers. This includes leveraging AI and other technologies to detect and prevent fraud, as well as educating consumers on how to protect themselves.


The warning from about the dramatic increase in travel scams serves as a crucial reminder of the importance of vigilance and security in the digital age. With AI driving a surge in sophisticated phishing attacks, both travelers and travel providers must take proactive steps to protect against fraud. By implementing robust security measures, staying informed, and practicing caution, travelers can enjoy their trips without falling victim to the growing threat of travel scams.

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