PSA: How to spot a fraud airline e-ticket email

I usually check my email’s spam folder just to empty it right away. But this time, I opened one particular email. And I knew that it’s a fraudulent one.

As a former travel agent, I’ve seen way too many airline electronic tickets for me to know what it looks like. Though it varies per airline. There are key indicators that would define it.

Key indicators

• Booking Reference / Confirmation Number / Reservation Code / PNR (Passenger Name Record) – consists of six (6) alpha-numeric code (varies per airline but the majority has 6.) This is the main indicator that you have a booking/reservation with your preferred airline.

• Electronic Ticket Number – consists of 13 numbers and the first three (3) digits are the airline’s 3-digit ticketing code. Once this is shown, you now have an actual ticket, not just a booking.

• Ticket details – Passenger/s name/s and flight information

Note: If you booked via 3rd party / online travel agency app/websites you’ll get their system’s Booking Reference / Confirmation Number / Reservation Code instead of the airline’s. Some include the airline’s code in the travel itinerary. Sometimes you need to call to get it. But the e-ticket number should always be there. ( Then again, it varies per system.)

My e-ticket, not

Apparently, an international airline bothered to send me an email a few days ago. They are notifying me, of a supposed reservation of mine. And now reviewing the payment. Yes, this happens for a lot of different reasons and confirmation may take days. It’s just that, I NEVER made a personal booking via this airline a few days ago. This is why I knew, right then and then it’s fraudulent also a possible phishing scam.

How to spot

1.Subject line: Again, this varies per airline but for this one it says, E-ticket 9531-486. If you read above, you’d know by now how many digits an airline e-ticket has.

2.Originating email address: Did I say it varies per airline? But almost all have the airline’s domain after the @ sign. And it’s very rare to see personal email yet possible for small airlines. But this one has a media portal site as per simple internet search.

3.Email encryption: Yup, it varies per airline. Most airlines send out encrypted emails to their clients, even those promotional emails. And this one is not encrypted, it shows their possible domain server instead.

4.Greeting: Yes, by now you know this, it varies per airline. Mostly use a power greeting by including your name on it, especially if you’re part of the airline’s frequent flyer program.

5.Booking Reference / Confirmation Number / Reservation Code / PNR (Passenger Name Record): In this email, it referred to the e-ticket as a booking reference. Fraud!

What next?

• As a precaution, DO NOT click any link in the email. Sometimes even if it’s a REAL travel itinerary (it may not be real since hackers are getting more clever), I hardly suggest opening a separate browser and type the airline’s website yourself. Log in to your account if you have one and start from there. Whatever it is that involves your booking, you can access it via the Manage Booking tab.

• If you BOOKED via the same airline and got an email like this, check your account credit/debit card if there’s a charge or none. Then open a separate browser, log into the airline’s website. Type the booking reference yourself plus the other essential info. If nothing comes up call the airline.

• If you DID NOT BOOK anything, check your accounts still. If there’s no charge, then good. But if there’s a charge placed on your account, call the airline. If they say they can’t cancel, call your bank to dispute due to fraud.

• If you’re part of the airline’s frequent flyer program or you have an account on the airline’s site, it’s best to change your password as caution.

• Check announcement/statement from the airline for any info about such phishing.

The Philippine internet turns 25 years old this year. A quarter-life advancement in life and technology. Sadly, it also where phishers lurk. This is why I opted to share my thoughts here. Have you received something similar to this email? Or additional tips, kindly share in the comments!

P.S. Here’s another one.

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