When was the last time you consulted a live travel agent? In the course of the past few years, the travel booking business has gone almost 100 percent online. It’s not surprising, then, that scammers and schemers are manipulating the Internet to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers. 

Charlie Abrahams, senior vice president at MarkMonitor, which helps companies protect their brand online, spotlights three travel scams that have been sneaking into the industry:

Phishing. Until recently, most phishing attempts targeted the financial services industry, trying to lure consumers into revealing their account numbers and passwords. But as banks and brokerage firms strengthened their defenses, phishers started moving to other industries. “Travel is one of the most popular targets at the moment,” says Abrahams.

Here's how they operate. Scammers target repeat customers of everything from online booking agents to hotel chains. You’ll receive an email warning you that, for example, your Marriott points are going to expire or that your preferred booking agent is offering you a discount. The email provides a link and urges you to log in right away. But when you type in your login information, the phisher captures your personal information—name, address, credit card number—and may download malware onto your computer. 

To protect yourself from these kinds of travel scams, never click on email links. “If you get an email imploring you to log in, be very cautious about inputting password or credential information,” says Abrahams. “It’s likely to be a trap.” Instead, log on to the legitimate site to confirm the request.

Pay-per-click scams. As an online industry, travel is a business in which success is driven by clicks—whether those clicks lead to a legitimate site or one that attempts to lure consumers elsewhere.

If you search for the name of a specific hotel, chances are that the first listing that comes up will be an advertisement for a booking service, not the site of the specific hotel. While that’s often a perfectly above-board partnership, it may not always produce the best deal for consumers. What’s not acceptable is when fraudsters use search keywords to divert consumers to illegitimate sites offering counterfeit airline tickets or fake hotel vouchers.

So what should you do? Check out more than one site to compare deals. Don’t forget to look up the rates on the hotel’s website or an airline’s website, which may offer special prices. For hotels, you can also go old-school and call the hotel directly—not the central reservations number—to inquire about discounts from a human who has up-to-date, on-the-ground information. If you are alert to travel scams, you should be able to spot this one.

Search engine manipulation. Also known as “black hat SEOs” (for the black hats worn by villains in old film Westerns) or “cyber-squatting,” this twist on search engine manipulation is used by scammers who insert other companies’ brands, slogans or trademarks to imply a relationship that doesn’t exist.

A consumer might find his search derailed by fraudsters using a well-known brand or trademark in their website content to boost their credibility when, in fact, no such partnership exists. Or scammers may “squat” on the URL for a website that sounds like what you’re looking for—say, MarriottLosAngeles.com—and stuff it with advertisements for cruises and tours that haven’t been approved by Marriott.

This practice is distracting and annoying but it’s not actually malicious. To avoid it, type in web addresses carefully and check to be sure you’re at the official site.