Why You Shouldn’t Post Your Boarding Pass Online

You’ve done it, I’ve definitely done it; most of us have posted pictures of our boarding pass online. Why wouldn’t you? The adventure is starting, you’re at the airport killing an hour before the flight and enjoying a drink in the departure lounge. You just want to share your excitement with your friends (or more like rub it in their faces).

If there is a clear example of why you shouldn’t post a picture of your boarding pass, look no further than the example of former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott who recently made headlines when his information held by Qantas was ‘hacked’.

What was hacked from Tony Abbott?

The short answer is nothing; the hacker did not steal or use the information in a malicious manner. The point of the ‘hacking’ was to highlight security flaws in Qantas’ system.

From a simple Instagram post showing the boarding pass & a baggage receipt in full, the hacker accessed Mr Abbott’s Qantas booking and within 45 minutes accessed HTML code which included his passport number, contact details, internal airline notes among other things.

While no major incident occurred in this example, the ease of a security breach of a prominent Australian should definitely make you want to pay attention to your own personal data.

Tony Abbott hacked: Former PM's massive boarding pass mistake
This simple Instagram photo from the former Australian Prime Minister has caused a massive security stir
(source: news.com.au – original Instagram post since deleted)

What’s the one reason not to post boarding passes online?

When making an airline reservation, you need to provide your airline or travel agent sensitive information that is required for your booking. Some information is required for government agencies for pre-screening of passengers prior to departure & arrival between countries, and other information makes your journey more comfortable.

In the wrong hands, criminals can use this basic information as a way to have you fall victim to identity theft.

Airlines and travel agents have strong data protections and laws in place keeping your personal data safe. However by posting your boarding pass online, you are virtually volunteering the data which savvy hackers use to find keys to your sensitive information. Some airlines require as little information as a booking number and a surname to view the reservation online, both details found on all boarding passes.

What information could be obtained from your boarding pass?

For a basic international airline reservation you will likely be providing most of the following, before your tickets can be issued:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • Email address
  • Passport number & expiry
  • Residential address

Does the required information look familiar to you? These are questions asked in most applications to sign up for new services and ‘forgotten password’ forms. Should an unauthorised person gain access to this information, there is nothing stopping them from attempting to use your information as a basis for illegal activity under your name nearly anywhere.

For those who have travelled regularly, you may also know that airlines often collect other information to make your journey more comfortable, such as:

  • Frequent flyer number & status
  • Special dietary requirements
  • Seating requests
  • Additional baggage
  • Special baggage (e.g sports equipment or dangerous goods)

To be honest, I wouldn’t want this information in the hands of my friends in fear they will try and put me in a middle seat or change my flight, let alone someone wanting to use and experiment with this information for malicious purposes.

What’s the best way to protect information when posting on social media?

The easiest way to do this is to ensure you’re not including any material that may give away any unique booking details full stop. If you’re not sure what to post, stick to selfies!

If you are feeling a little artsy and just need to post something, just leave out the boarding pass. Perhaps take one of the departure board, or one of the aircraft parked at the gate or if you’re at Singapore’s Changi Airport, take One Flying Lap like I did!

Final words

During the times of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us aren’t flying anywhere at the moment; but when you do take to the sky again there’s simply no need to post a snap of that data rich piece of paper! If your need inspiration, Caroline at breaks.com has 10 tips for taking great travel pictures.

What do you share to social media prior to your travels? Do you share at all?
Let me know in the comments below!

Feature photo by Fidel Fernando on Unsplash

5 Ways to Avoid Taxi Scams While Travelling

The modern traveler has more tools than ever to get from Point A to Point B in any given city. Yet sometimes the quickest and easiest way to reach your destination is by taxi. Taxis have their major conveniences in that they are nearly always plentiful, not subject “surge pricing” and can be caught from any major hotel or landmark in any city.

Unfortunately, as in any industry, not all taxi drivers are honest and will try to take advantage of unsuspecting passengers. On a recent taxi journey in Jakarta, the driver tried to take me for a ride via the longest scenic route possible. I was very annoyed I had found myself in this situation yet my backup plans kicked into play to get me out of the web. These are my five ways to avoid taxi scams.

1 – This is never your first visit

A common icebreaking question when you jump into a cab is “is this your first time here?” Never say yes! This widens the appeal to take more money than you bargained for – whether it’s taking the longest route possible or the driver offering services for the duration of your trip; you should never admit this visit is the first. That effectively puts a sign on your head stating “rip-off target”.

For this strategy to work, you need to do some research on the country you’re visiting. What are the main sights? What are some second-tier cities you can mention you’ve visited? You don’t want to get caught on your bluff with no research so be prepared to rattle off a whole heap of experiences you’re yet to have.

2 – Avoid negotiations

Drivers who insist on negotiating a price most likely have something up their sleeve. They’re probably quoting a highly inflated price to the standard metered fare, or ask for extra money for toll roads at the end. Unless you have travelled the route a few times before and know how much the standard fare is, always insist on using the meter – otherwise don’t get in.

3 – Buyer beware if hailing from the street

Look to any major road and you will likely see many taxis that are happy to pull over for you. Be aware, many cities have “lookalike cabs” which are unlicensed, or drivers may use pressure tactics to get you in the cab saying “Get in, get in! I shouldn’t stop here!” before refusing to run the meter or suddenly requiring a stop at a petrol station, which of course hikes up the metered fare. Consider using official taxi ranks, hotel lobbies or even finding someone who can call the taxi company on your behalf.

Lookalike cabs
Hailing taxis are super convenient, but buyer beware! Image:Pixabay

4 – Use online maps when on the move

I’m very lucky that my home mobile provider offers very cheap international roaming which includes internet. Using your roaming or local sim card, you can literally track your journey as you go if you suspect you’re being taken for a ride.

When you get in, show the driver on your device where you want to go and have the directions preview displayed – this will send a strong message to the driver that you know where you’re going and you are well informed of the route. This may even assist honest drivers, who may not know exactly how to get to Point B.

Google Maps, Grand Indonesia
Plot your journey and have a rough idea of how long and where your route takes you

5 – Don’t be afraid to get out, when it’s safe

If you know you’re being taken for a ride or something feels instinctively wrong, just pay the fare that’s on the meter and get out. This isn’t always an option late at night or in an unsafe neighbourhood but pick your timing as soon as you see a safe location such as a shopping mall, major hotel or police station. These locations will generally have plenty of other transport options, or people who are happy to assist travellers to get to where they need to go.

How I got out of a taxi scam

Taxi scams are likely to happen to every traveller at least once, even when you follow all the general safeguards. Recently I had to get from a shopping centre back to my hotel, a route I have taken a few times before. This normally takes ten minutes and costs a few dollars.

After requesting a taxi from the shopping centre lobby, I hopped in and the driver was very happy and cheerful as most are. The first red flag was when the driver started taking a surprising route compared to what I experienced previously, especially as the traffic was light. Thinking he may know of a traffic problem that I didn’t and knowing there are multiple ways to the hotel I didn’t think any more of it.

Red flag number two appeared as this trip struck the fifteen-minute mark. I checked my online map and noticed we were taking a considerably longer route to the hotel. I figured out the most direct route and where the driver had to turn next…he missed that turn and was about six lanes of traffic over – I’m being taken for a ride!

All the sudden, the cheery taxi driver who had engaging small talk in English turned on me. I politely reconfirmed the hotel he was taking me to and he growled: “yes we are going there”. When I asked to go the shortest way I was stonewalled with the sudden “I don’t speak English” line. He then magically jumps across six lanes of traffic to take the next left turn. Now in a traffic jam and with a tight grip on my phone, I show him where we started, my destination and pointed out we are now further away from the hotel than before. He replies “ok, I’ll turn up here”. He does, and I think we are now back on the most direct route to the hotel. I considered getting out, but my gut feeling told me that it’s not overly safe outside despite the stopped traffic and there is no immediate Plan B around me.

As we approach the forty-minute mark of my ten-minute taxi journey, we suddenly take another unexpected left turn. We are now close to my hotel and I call out the taxi driver on his latest tactic. He claims the closest entry was closed which I know is false because it’s open 24 hours a day. I ask him to stop immediately, give him my money and got out. By chance, there was a policeman standing right where I got out. The driver complained to the police that I didn’t pay him, but the police had none of it and told me to continue on with my day.

The total taxi fare was 75% higher than normal from the shopping centre back to the hotel. Yet if this was my first time to Jakarta and I hadn’t researched my route, I could have been in the taxi for a couple of hours and paying for every last moment.

It was unfortunate I found myself in this position to begin with, yet I was falling victim to a very simple tourist scam which runs rampant around the world. What got me out of my situation was the Plan-B and ‘C which potentially saved me a lot of money and my time. It was very scary at the start, but I’m happy that this story can be shared with laughs over a couple of beers, and you the reader.

Give this a like and share in the comments below if you’ve had a dodgy taxi experience! How did you get out of it?

Feature photo courtesy from Flickr – Marcin Wichary