(2:30 p.m. EDT) – Scams targeting cruise passengers awaiting refunds or Future Cruise Credits reportedly have been taking place, as part of the fallout from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Reports have surfaced of cruisers being targeted by email with messages purporting to be from cruise lines. These emails ask travelers for credit card numbers, promising it's the best way to process refunds or FCCs. Other cruisers have said they've been contacted by phone, "confirming" a refund and offering a follow-up email that will require bank account information.
Both methods are bogus, designed to prey on cruisers who are awaiting legitimate refunds or FCCs for cruises canceled because of the pandemic. Here's are some tips for protecting yourself from scammers.
Know that a cruise line will never email you asking for your credit card number or bank account information, for any reason. Even if you have a balance outstanding on a future cruise, you will need to either call the cruise line directly or make payment using the "My Cruise" or "My Booking" portal on the cruise line's own website, or through a travel advisor.
Cruise lines tell Cruise Critic their business practices never involve disclosure of information over email or text.
"At Carnival, data privacy and protection are extremely important," said Vance Gulliksen, a spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Line. "It is not in the company's business practice to request any type of payment method, including credit card information, be sent via email or text."
While most of us have received phone calls from the personal vacation planners some cruise lines employ, we should all be wary of unsolicited phone calls, particularly concerning future cruise credits or refunds.
FCCs do not require any sort of credit card approval or disclosure of personal information. In most cases, the cruise line should already have that information on file.
The same holds true for refunds. In most cases (and unless requested otherwise), refunds are processed to the original method of payment. Unless you recently changed your credit card -- in which case you should proactively call the cruise line -- there is no reason for companies to ask for any additional details beyond what they already have.
Some cruise lines have team members proactively reaching out to affected passengers for rebooking options; unless you are booking a higher-cost voyage, there will be no reason to ask for payment options.
Another important point: No one from any cruise line will call you without already knowing your booking number. There would be no reason to provide this information to anyone, via phone or email. Much like airline reservation numbers and frequent flier numbers, it's a good idea to safeguard your booking number as you would any other important piece of identifying information.
On social media channels, it is a good idea to be mindful of your personal information. While many have taken to platforms like Twitter and Facebook to get information on refunds and future cruise credits -- or to publicly air grievances -- oversharing is not a good idea.
Be mindful of posting identifying information that scammers could potentially use against you. Refrain from posting your ship and sailing date in a public forum, along with your full name or email address. Providing these pieces of information, even over multiple posts and tweets, could give potential scammers all they need to know to target you.
Instead, communicate with the cruise line via authorized channels -- direct messages to the company on Twitter or email communications or phone calls to reservations teams listed on cruise line's COVID-19 support pages.
If you booked through a travel advisor, that person will handle all communications between the cruise line and you. If for some reason there is a legitimate problem with the credit card on file, the cruise line would notify your travel advisor, who would then notify you.
This chain of command is how almost every interaction with the cruise line would work. Booking with a travel advisor can further safeguard you from any potential scams by providing someone to liaise with the cruise line on your behalf.
Travel advisors can also provide another layer of security and confidence during these uncertain times.