Select Page

In honor of my Caught Dead in Wyoming mystery series, my assistant Gabriella Samuels is writing for my newsletter and blog a series of consumer tips inspired by TV reporter Elizabeth Margaret Danniher.

People are traveling more than ever. A big headache when traveling are delays and cancellations. What happens when an airline cancels your flight? You quickly Google the airline’s customer support number to call and fix the issue. In your rush or panic, you then click the website or call the first number that you find in the search results. That’s what scammers want you to do.

Scammers are manipulating Google search results to get you to go to their site or call their number. Many are posing as airlines customer support websites.

When you search for something on Google, the search engine’s algorithm likes to put what feels like the most “relevant” answer at the top and not always the most correct. Most of the time, you will get the answer you were looking for. Unfortunately, sometimes it is just someone who manipulated the algorithm to their advantage. Thus, making it seem like their information is the correct one, which is now a big problem.

Scammers are using SEO or “search engine optimization” to get you to click on the wrong website or even call the wrong number. Typically, online merchants use SEO to get you to see their products when you are shopping online, such as a coat or new pair of shoes. However, this same method is used by scammers to either make you call their number to scam you out of your money, sometimes demanding “fees” to change flight schedules.

Airlines and Google are now fighting against scammers trying to use this method, but the problem is getting worse. According to NBC, six airlines, including Delta, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Air France, had incorrect phones numbers in Google search results.

Airlines and Google are telling travelers to be careful and have provided some methods to prevent you from going to the wrong sites or calling the wrong numbers.

  • Go directly to an airline’s official website to see official contact information
  • Use an airline’s official app
  • Use the online customer support chat if you don’t feel comfortable calling
  • Check the web link before clicking

The Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission are the best places to report these scams if you encounter them.