FTC says travel-related scams are on the rise. Here’s how AI is helping scammers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – You might be excited to set your out-of-office email for the holiday weekend, but recent AI advancements are enabling more sophisticated phishing emails and cyber scams.

Data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) shows that travel-related scams increased by almost 25% last year.

TSA is prepared for a record number of passengers over the Independence Day holiday weekend. It’s the perfect opportunity for a vacation and also the perfect opportunity for scammers posing as airlines and hotels to get your personal information or even your credit card number.

Chris Hamer, an internet security networking consultant, said it’s vital time for you to stay on guard for cyber scams and phishing attempts.

“These criminals are opportunists. Anything that gives them an opportunity to increase their revenue,” Hamer said. “It’s the opportunity you give by broadcasting your travel plans, broadcasting your personal information on social media.”

In 2022, the FTC received more than 65,000 reports of travel-related scams totaling over $105 million in losses for consumers.

“I tell people there’s no such thing as a free lunch. If you get an email that’s advertising something that’s way too good to be true, it probably is,” Hamer said. “If it’s something that’s a deviation from what you already have planned as a travel itinerary, be suspicious. Don’t click on the links in the email, contact your travel agent, or verify with the carrier directly.”

Here’s how easy AI is making things for scammers. We asked OpenAI to write an email explaining to a traveler that they need to pay an additional fee to cover travel insurance and flight changes.

In just 30 seconds, it generated a pretty convincing email. There are no typos or poor grammar suggesting that the sender is not who they say they are.

“The fact that the Fourth of July weekend is coming up, they don’t care. The fact that they have greater access to the tools and resources to try and get an email in your inbox that possibly will get your credit card information, or compromised your computer or your business or anything else just puts money in their pocket,” Hamer said.

The FTC said common threats can look like text and emails for free vacation offerings and even phishing emails posing as airlines notifying you of a flight change and asking you to verify personal or bank information.

You can report fraud and scams to the FTC here.

About the Author:

Tiffany comes home to Jacksonville, FL from WBND in South Bend, Indiana. She went to Mandarin High School and UNF. Tiffany is a former WJXT intern, and is joining the team in 2023 as Consumer Investigative Reporter and member of the I-TEAM.