Scamsters can’t wait to get their hands on your hard-earned vacation dollars.

2 minute read

After more than a year of pandemic restrictions and precautions, chances are you can’t wait to sink your toes into a sandy beach or explore another city or country this summer. Be careful, though. Scammers making false promises for vacation destinations abound, according to a recent bulletin from the Better Business Bureau (BBB).[1]

“When planning your next trip, be wary of false promises and a sense of urgency that can fool you into paying for something that doesn’t exist,” warns the BBB. But you don’t have to have your vacation plans grounded by fraudsters.

1. Vacation rental lures

A 2019 investigation by the BBB found widespread fraud in the vacation rental home market, with nearly half (43%) of online shoppers coming across a fake listing.[2] Even worse, more than 5 million consumers lost money to vacation rental home scams.

With vacation rental scams, the “owner” typically creates a false sense of urgency, telling you that someone else also wants to rent the property you desire, for example. Then they push you to pay immediately, before you’ve had a chance to check their legitimacy.

If you’re not using Airbnb or a similar reputable vacation rental platform, the BBB recommends speaking with the rental property owner on the phone before confirming the rental reservation. “Speaking with the owner on the phone, asking detailed questions about the property, and local attractions will clarify if the listing is true. An owner with vague answers is a clear red flag,” says the BBB.

2. “Free vacations”

When you come across an offer for a “free” vacation from a cruise or travel company, don’t be too quick to climb onboard. Just because the trip is marketed as free doesn’t mean you won’t  end up paying additional costs or fees, according to the BBB. The same goes for trips you supposedly “won” without even entering a contest.

Hotel rates and airfares so low that they seem too good to be true probably don’t actually exist, says the BBB. And if a salesperson is pressuring you to sign up now or lose the opportunity, hang up the phone, walk away or delete the too-good-to-be-true text message or email.

3. Hotel scams

Just because you’re staying at a reputable hotel doesn’t knock you off a scammer’s radar. Scammers posing as front desk staffers might call you late at night, when they know you’re tired from traveling, asking  you to “re-verify” your credit card number. Also beware of food delivery scams, where the menu hanging on your hotel door latch is fake and the scammer is only after your credit card information when you call to order.

Another hotel scam to avoid is fake free Wi-Fi connections set up by scammers who control the unsecured connection through their own computers. “Avoid doing any banking transactions or checking personal accounts when using an open Wi-Fi network,” warns the BBB. “Use a secure, private network if it is absolutely necessary to access personal or financial accounts.”

4. Third-party booking sites

Even though there are plenty of legitimate third-party travel websites, there are also scammers out there only pretending to be online travel brokers. The way this scam typically works is that after you pay for air, hotel or travel through the third-party site, someone from the company calls and asks you to verify your credit card number or banking information, “something a legitimate company would never do,” according to the BBB.

Before booking through a third-party website, always check the company’s Better Business Bureau rating and BBB reviews and complaints.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

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