LOST AND FOUND FRAUDSTERS, SCAMMERS AND GRIFTERS

Main Targets are Customers from Airports and Airlines

There are always those that seek to profit from the misfortune of others. When you lose something important, you may also find yourself faced with grifters and scammers. We want to help you differentiate between legitimate lost and found services and possible fraudsters — and also help prevent any damage in reputation to the airport and airline because untrustworthy third parties decide to misuse their names.

In the last months, an increased amount of complaints have come our way from our partners and travelers alike. Both have raised the same issue: Websites that present themselves as the official Lost and Found offices or at least implying direct relations. The smart ones are worded very carefully in order to minimize legal repercussions.

Especially passengers of airlines and airports are targeted by these websites. In the hopes of filing an official Lost and Found report, the passengers pay e.g. $30 in order to initiate the return process. The money is transferred, the passenger waits — and nothing happens. The money? Gone for good.

But let’s take a step back and find out how these sites lure you into trusting them in the first place.

Unfortunately, one major factor these types of dangerous websites have going for them is an in-depth understanding of how the Google search engine displays results; in other words, an excellent SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEA (Search Engine Advertisement) strategy. For example, sophisticated scammers have every airport, airline and other thinkable service indexed with their own landing page, allowing them to fool unsuspecting travelers by being among the top Google search results.

The fake Lost and Found portals even go so far as to pay Google for additionally prominent placements.
Thousands of ads are scattered across the websites, making it even easier for the stressed traveler to confuse legitimate sites with fraudsters.

What can Passengers do?

One important factor needs to be repeated and announced on every FAQ and landing page concerning Lost and Found:

SERVICE ORIENTED COMPANIES WILL
NEVER CHARGE FOR THE LOST AND FOUND SEARCH ITSELF

As soon as that information (that reputable Lost and Found services don’t charge for merely filing a report or submitting their inquiry) becomes public knowledge, the major part of most scammers’ business model crumbles. The best defense against Lost and Found fraud are educated passengers.

Education from the airports and airlines aside, passengers also have tools at their own disposal to ensure the validity of Lost and Found services. One powerful tool everyone has at their disposal in all online dealings and purchases are portals like “Trustpilot” or the “Better Business Bureau”. Here, users share their experiences with specific services, including Lost and Found.

Here are some examples of customer reviews concerning one of the fraud pages at the top of Google search results:

I don’t understand how this company is allowed to exist. They are nothing other than thieves.

TOTAL SCAM. PAID MY $30(should have checked reviews first). Never heard another word from them. No reply to email.

Hope everyone out there read reviews before submitted to paying whatever. This company rendered non exist but took advantage of travellers in moments of panic.

Once you, as the inquirer, have decided that a Lost and Found Service could be trustworthy, there are more steps to take. First and foremost, read the fineprint! Is there an official direct partnership with the airline, airport, TSA etc. being stated? Or is the wording intentionally vague like “we will file a report on your behalf”? Make sure to check on the website of the entity where you suspect to have lost your item directly to validate any of the claims. Of course, navigating e.g. to the airport’s Lost and Found section directly via their website remains your best option not to fall into virtual traps.

Another commonality many of these scam sites share is their use of an old psychological sales trick — they don’t display any prices until the last moment. Why? Because if you’ve already filled out multiple forms, in other words put effort into something, you are more likely to pay a higher amount for it in the end.

Can nothing be done against scammers directly?

Many of our partners in aviation face customer complaints because of these fake Lost and Found sites. And many have tried warning letter or cease and desists directly as well as contacting Google. So far, unfortunately, the results have been less than satisfactory.

The best all of us can do right now is to hit scammers where it hurts; their wallets.

One step is the described education of passengers and making sure the airports and airlines Lost and Found undergoes substantial SEO measures.

Another is to report violations of the Adsense Policy to Google. If the SEA measures are blocked, a major inflow of potential victims is nipped in the bud. Scammers can be reported for publishing misrepresentative content, distribution of someone else’s copyrighted material without permission, or other content violations (whichever applies in the specific case). Check out AdSense terms here.

If you have any questions regarding Lost and Found, please feel free to get in touch: www.lostandfoundsoftware.com

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