An online scam has started to impact the aviation industry as accounts impersonating airlines have been replying to customers seeking help on social media platform X.

Despite X, formerly known as Twitter, introducing paid verification as a supposed way of helping distinguish legitimate accounts from automatic bots, customers who tweet about problems they are having with airlines have been receiving replies from accounts posing as airline help desks.

Aviation expert and podcast host Jason Rabinowitz, known as @AirlineFlyer on X, reported that customers who tagged an airline and used keywords like “help” and “cancelled” appeared to be more likely to receive the replies. 

Many of the industry’s major airlines are affected by the issues, with Airport Technology able to find clearly fake accounts imitating companies such as easyJet, British Airways and American Airlines.

While many of the airlines have paid for an official organisation verification badge, a gold tick that appears next to their username, customers may be easily tricked by scam accounts that imitate the language and assistance methods of the actual airlines.

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Some of the fake accounts have also paid for the blue verification tick in order to further confuse customers who may not check the rest of the account’s content before interacting.

Rabinowitz reported that many of the scammers will attempt to get customers to transfer conversations over to WhatsApp, where they will seek further information or possibly payment.

The impact of the scam on the aviation industry is part of a wider problem seen across the platform, with customers seeking help from businesses becoming the targets of scams by accounts that have paid for verification, as reported by news outlets such as the Guardian.