“British Airways” and other scam accounts siphoning personal information from unsuspecting travelers

Scammers are posing as real airline customer representatives on X (formerly known as Twitter) to siphon personal information from disgruntled travelers.

Which, the UK-based consumer association, found that scammers are exploiting frustrated travelers by posing as legitimate UK airlines to steal personal information.

The association first flagged these scams in 2023, but it seems that this form of fraud has made a comeback and is targeting frustrated travelers in the UK.

Those who may be struggling with a booking or want to learn more about their flight might take to social media to receive a swift response.

However, something more insidious is happening behind the scenes. This suggests that scammers are capitalizing on travelers' struggles by employing bots to crawl the site in search of individuals contacting the airline.

Bots are a type of automated software that follows a set of instructions without the need for human input. They often mimic user behavior and can be used by scammers to aid their deception.

Once they’ve located an unsuspecting victim, these scammers will quickly contact the person and respond to their question, hoping not to be identified as a false account.

According to Which, a researcher contacted the legitimate Wizz Air X account to ask about a flight delay, and two accounts posing as the genuine airline contacted them. The scammers responded to the query almost immediately.

“Both used near-identical language, apologizing for the inconvenience, stating that they had ‘already escalated this matter to the relevant department’ and requesting a ‘reachable WhatsApp number for assistance’ via DM,” Which said.

Scammers impersonate most UK airlines

Which found that almost all UK airlines have fallen victim to impersonation by scammers online.

The consumer association named these airlines that have bogus accounts:

  • British Airways
  • easyJet
  • Jet2
  • Ryanair
  • Tui
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Wizz Air

Which identified a common trend among scammers posing as legitimate airlines. Often, these scam X accounts respond to questions immediately, whereas genuine airlines will take longer to respond.

Scam airline accounts can also interrupt conversations between customers and airlines, Which said.

Scam tactics

In direct messages with customers, scammers often ask for just enough information to commit identity theft or enough information to sell to other cybercriminals, Which said.

These scam artists will ask you for your phone number and other personal information. They may also ask you for your booking reference and other flight information to make the interaction seem legitimate.

False airline accounts may also redirect you to phishing sites that harvest your credit card and other financial information.

Who’s combating fake accounts?

According to the consumer association, reporting these fake accounts has “limited success” as the flagged accounts were still active at the time of writing, Which said.

When asked, X said, “All accounts you have mentioned have been suspended for violating the X Rules.”

Which contacted seven airlines regarding their status on the website and whether they could confirm the number of fake accounts they have reported so far in 2024. A few airlines didn’t respond, and supposedly, no airline responded directly to Which’s question.

However, easyJet, Jet2, Tui, and Wizz Air said that they are monitoring these fake accounts, reporting them, and reminding customers to be aware of this type of scam.

How to spot a fake account

Which has listed the genuine airlines that are often impersonated by scammers and has included some tips to stay safe while contacting airlines via social media.

Customers should look at the accounts' joining date and number of followers. For example, a fake Wizz Air account joined X in February 2024 with only 217 followers. Whereas the real Wizz Air X account was created in 2012 and has approximately 80,000 followers.

The consumer association reminds users that airlines will never ask for personal data, such as financial information, over social media.

Finally, users should never provide sensitive information via social media, and if they have an issue, they should contact customer services via the airline's legitimate website.

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