Holidaymakers have been warned to be wary of booking holidays online this summer due to a spike in complaints about fake hotel booking confirmation emails.
Hotline.ie, which is supervised by the Department of Justice’s office for internet safety in co-operation with the gardaí, warned that cybercriminals were sending fake booking confirmation emails containing attachments that, when opened, downloaded malicious software.
This software installs itself on the computer and captures the users’ passwords, log-on details, and identity.
According to Hotline.ie, these emails are being sent at random in the hope that the thousands of Irish people booking hotels online will mistake the fraudulent emails as confirmation of a their own recent booking.
More than 60% of Irish internet users book their holiday destinations and accommodation online, which requires key personal information and credit card details.
With about 1.2m Irish people holidaying abroad from January to March, according to the CSO, this figure is expected to rise during the summer months.
Paul Durrant, manager of Hotline.ie, said booking a holiday online was safe, secure, and difficult to target, so criminals used purely random holiday booking email receipts to fool as many unsuspecting consumers as possible.
“Their objective is to infect your computer with a trojan that can gather log-ons, passwords, and credit card details.
“If you are in a hurry and don’t check that the email is actually from the booking service you used and you open the fake confirmation attachment, you now have their trojan on your computer.
“We’re warning about this scam because very little can be done to stop it but once the public is aware, they can avoid falling into the trap.”
The trojans transmit captured details back to the cybercriminals, who can then transfer money out of a person’s account or make purchases using their credit card details.
Mr Durrant issued some simple but effective advice to consumers booking holidays or hotels.
“The simple remedy is never open unexpected emails with attachments without first checking where it has come from and keep your antivirus software up to date.
“Using the internet for holiday bookings definitely offers great choice and is a very cost effective option and with these safety precautions, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t continue to be used for this.”
Hotline.ie was set up in 1999 and provides an anonymous facility for the public to report suspected illegal content encountered on the internet, in a secure and confidential way.
The primary focus of the hotline is to combat child pornography.
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