With the COVID-19 vaccine effort ramping up, people are starting to plan future vacations and work travel. For many, this preparation involves renewing their enrollment in Trusted Traveler programs such as TSA precheck or Global Entry in the United States and NEXUS in Canada.

Scammers are on to this trend. According to recent BBB Scam Tracker reports, con artists are creating lookalike websites in an attempt to trick you out of personal information and money.

How the scam workS. You do a web search for one of the programs designed to help speed known travelers through airport security. Your web browser displays a list of results. The official website likely appears high up on the list but also included are websites designed to look like the official one.

When you click on the website, you find a third-party company that either impersonates the government department or offers to do all the paperwork for you. These sites may charge you the cost of the application fee plus a hefty service fee to cover the cost of their “help.” In addition, you’ll be asked to fill out forms with sensitive, personal information including your full name, passport number and home address.

Even if you pay up, the company may never submit your application form through the correct channels. You will have lost money and shared your personal information with scammers.

To avoid lookalike websites, the Better Business Bureau offers this advice:

• Double check the URL before you enter personal and payment information. Always double check that you are on the right website and the link is secure. Secure links start with “https://” and include a lock icon on the purchase page.

In the United States, all government websites end in “.gov.” In Canada, government agency websites are under gc.ca.

• Make online purchases with your credit card. Fraudulent charges made on a credit card usually can be disputed. Unfortunately, there is no way to get back the personal information you may have shared.

If you have been the victim of a phony website scam, help others avoid falling prey to similar scams by reporting your experience at BBB.org/ScamTracker.

Reanna Smith-Hamblin is president and CEO of the Better Business chapter serving this region. She can be reached at 502-588-0043 or rsmith-hamblin@bbb.louisville.org.