Beware of your holidays: Booking warns of a 900% increase in scams

Summer officially begins, classes end and the flood of vacation reservations skyrockets and the websites see it. Just like cybercriminals. So much so that Marnie Wilking, head of security at, recently warned that artificial intelligence (AI) is causing an explosion in travel scams.

In a recent interview, Wilking assured that there has been “an increase of between 500 and 900%” in the last 18 months in this type of scam. Although part of this increase corresponds to phishing – in which people are tricked into handing over their financial data – since generative artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT burst onto the market, the difference is noticeable.

“Of course, we’ve had phishing since the dawn of email, but the uptick started shortly after the launch of ChatGPT,” explains Wilking. The attackers they are definitely using AI to launch attacks “which mimic emails much better than anything they’ve done to date.”

Phishing attacks often try to convince people to hand over their card details by sending them fake but convincing-looking online booking links. After paying, scammers disappear without a trace, leaving the buyer without a place to stay, or they even try to scam you more money through follow-up messages. These types of scams have been around for decades, although they often come with telltale signs of fraud, such as spelling and grammatical errors.

But Wilking points out that AI is making it harder to detect these actions because it can generate realistic images and much more accurate text, in multiple languages. His advice is that if we are going to make a reservation, let’s use two-factor authentication (it involves an additional security check, such as entering a code sent to your phone) and considers it “the best way to combat phishing and credential theft.” But AI would also have a positive side, allowing to quickly remove fake hotels that were trying to scam people.

“We have set up artificial intelligence models to detect and block them so they don’t get there to start or eliminate them before there is any reserve,” adds Wilking.

To avoid falling into these types of traps and scams, Wilking advises checking that contact details are available on the websites and that there is a telephone number; many scam sites don’t have one on purpose. Make sure it is the original website and that there are no subtle spelling errors in the website address (such as a zero replacing a letter o) and recommend booking holiday packages, rather than flights and accommodation separately.

It is also important do not believe in very tempting offers, extremely cheap flights and packages whose price will disappear in a few hours. Rush and temptations are always a warning sign that we must pay attention to.