Travellers who purchase airline tickets online from third parties (agents) have been advised to be wary of the platforms they buy from as some of these tickets are sold by fraudulent people operating as middlemen.
According to the Director of the Cybercrime Unit of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service, Dr Herbert Gustav Yankson, there is a growing trend of such fraud cases where tickets have been sold to unsuspecting customers by fraudulent people online.
In less than two weeks, his outfit has recorded about seven different cases from airline ticket agencies, whose system had been hacked and subsequently tickets sold to customers online.
Dr Yankson explained that although the customers might not be aware of such systems hacks, they could suffer the consequences and be restrained from travelling with such tickets when traced.
He said fraudulent people use huge discounts as baits to entice buyers seeking for cheaper rates online; they sell the tickets quickly and then disappear.
In some instances tickets are sold at one-third the official rate.
“If the tickets are being sold at a cheaper rate compared to the official market price.
The chances are that it may have been stolen and the thief needs a quick buyer,” he explained.
He said if an agency realised that some of its tickets have been sold by a hacker, the only way to trace it would be through the customer who travels with the ticket.
“When doing such transactions online, be sure you know the person you are dealing with because you stand the chance of being arrested,” Mr Yankson advised.
Dr Yankson also advised operators of genuine agencies online to observe proper cyber hygiene to prevent hackers from gaining access to their systems.
Cyber hygiene refers to practices and steps that users of computers and other devices take to maintain system health and improve online security.
These practices are part of a routine to ensure the safety of identity and other details that could be stolen or corrupted.
He said practices such as sharing passwords among employees, visiting malicious websites, downloading from unverified links and other transactions online which they take for granted exposed their systems to hackers, cautioning that computers used for official duties should not be used for any other purpose.
One of the agencies for instance had about 15 of its tickets sold overnight.
Dr Yankson said with the cases they were currently investigating, the websites used for those transactions were out of Ghana and so the police had to liaise with foreign counterparts, which could take some time.
“These hackers are experts at what they do and could even be operating here with foreign Internet protocol (IP) addresses.
It is very difficult to trace such activities as we cannot tell who runs the business or the location,” he stated.
He said the police would seek a court order to get the details of the travellers who used the stolen tickets from the airline companies.