TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Due to Booking.com's ongoing data breaches, 228 Taiwanese have been defrauded out of NT$30 million over the first nine months of this year.
The Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) on Sunday (Oct. 6) pointed out that 228 Taiwanese Booking.com customers have been victims of fraud this year after their personal data was accessed by hackers. The CIB estimates that these customers have suffered NT$30 million in losses as a result and appealed to the public to select e-commerce sites with stronger security mechanisms.
According to a press release sent out by the CIB, Booking.com had by far the most cases of customers being victimized after their personal data had been hacked. In contrast, only four such cases were reported over the same period for Agoda and just one for Hotels.com.
The bureau said the leakage of Booking.com customer data enabled fraud groups to call the website's members and pose as customer service representatives. Since May of this year, the anti-fraud hotline has received 165 reports of fraud, with a total of 228 being made from January through September, representing total loses of NT$33.62 million.
CIB chart showing number of reported fraud cases from various travel sites.
Among those victimized was a 32-year-old doctor surnamed Lin (林), who received a fraudulent phone call from a fake Booking.com customer service representative. The scammer claimed that duplicate orders and charges on his account were caused by a system anomaly and that the bank would be notified to provide assistance.
Then, another fraudster called Lin posing as the bank's customer service representative. This scammer claimed that Lin's ATM had a network connection function and asked him to cooperate with him in using the ATM to cancel the charges.
Believing the con artist was a real customer service representative, Lin dutifully followed his instructions. He later learned to his horror that he had been cheated out of NT$1.64 million.
Every week, the CIB publishes a list of high-risk online stores on its 165 anti-fraud hotline website. Booking.com has been posted on the page for 21 consecutive weeks since May of this year.
Based on the high number of fraud cases compared with other travel sites, the CIB says this demonstrates that there are loopholes in the website's security. The bureau calls on the public to exercise caution when selecting e-commerce websites and check for security measures.
In the case of websites that fail to improve their cybersecurity, the CIB recommends that consumers avoid them altogether to ensure the safety of their personal data.