Published: September 16, 2019
Reading time: 3 minute read
Written by: Kayla Parker

The online travel industry is expected to exceed $1 trillion by 2023, as the disposable income of people in emerging markets grows, alongside the ease of comparing a variety of travel options and affordable vacation package deals online. Whether a weekend getaway, honeymoon, or a trip home for the holidays, travel customers expect a seamless experience from booking to takeoff.

Incentivizing the Journey

Major airlines, land and accommodation providers, and Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) alike are fighting to win a piece of the growing online travel market pie by aiming to provide the most personalized and seamless customer experience possible. For example, many airlines and travel providers are now accepting Alternative Payment Methods (APMs) to meet customers’ demands. Methods like installment payments, e-wallets, and instant bank transfers are growing in popularity to reduce friction in the buying process. Travel companies are also raising the stakes by offering customers improved loyalty programs, incentivizing brand loyalty and rewarding shoppers with points and vouchers in exchange for their purchases. While these methods boost brand experience and keep customers happy and engaged, they can also come at a price to the merchant.

Exploiting Frequent Flyer Miles

The methods travel companies are putting in place to win over customers are the very thing making them increasingly more vulnerable to fraud attacks. Instantaneous payment offerings open businesses up to new and more sophisticated types of fraud attacks. Travel fraudsters are unique, often hard to catch as they take on various personas, and even legitimate customer behaviors within this particular industry can appear suspicious to an untrained system (last minute bookings, changes in IP address, or phone numbers, etc).

Fraudsters, now armed with the knowledge that they can do more damage by hacking into an individuals’ account than by committing simple transactional fraud, have pivoted to new methods of attack, including the targeting of loyalty programs. Users are far less likely to monitor loyalty points accrued than they would be with funds in their actual bank accounts. As such, fraudsters can fly under the radar, depleting these accounts and leveraging them unbeknownst to the merchant or the customer. Forter’s senior sales director, Sondra Feinberg, recently explained to Business Travel Executive that because of “numerous data breaches, email addresses and passwords along with birthdates and social security numbers are floating in cyberspace,” and it is easier than ever  “for cybercriminals to log in to frequent flier sites and skim off points or even make purchases with those points.”

A Customer-First Mindset for Fraud Prevention

When it comes to stopping fraud, travel businesses need to be especially mindful of adding obstacles into the booking process, as their customers often purchase multiple tickets at once or adjust their itineraries at the last minute, and expect their experience to remain friction-free. Feinberg highlights that many travel companies “are being reactive to fraud issues instead of becoming proactive in fighting the fraud,” which becomes a problem when travel businesses rely on instant bookings to keep their customers satisfied.

Many online travel providers attempt to build fraud systems in-house, but lack the global network and domain expertise needed to recognize fraudster behaviors, patterns, and personas before it is too late. Forter currently recognizes 2.1 billion devices (and growing), and as Feinberg explains, “we don’t wait until the point of transaction. We determine first if we have seen this person before and then determine whether we trust them. If they are a known purchaser, we give them approval in 760 milliseconds.”

As both the online travel market and customer expectations grow, travel companies need a fully automated fraud prevention solution to detect bad actors in real-time and keep pace with their good customers’ expectations.Online fraudsters are growing increasingly more sophisticated and are constantly looking for new vulnerabilities to exploit on merchant platforms. A legacy or rules-based approach no longer meets the dynamic market requirements nor is nimble enough to adjust as fraudsters continue to shift their methods of attack. Online travel businesses will need to look for partners that can simultaneously prevent fraud and abuse on their platform, while ensuring a seamless customer experience – leaving fraudsters grounded and allowing good customers to take flight.

For more information on how Forter helps businesses say “yes” to more travel deals, check out our recent case study with Priceline here.


3 minute read