According to a survey spearheaded by a coalition of 75 travel companies and organizations, more than 77% of Americans say they are planning a trip this summer. Scammers are preying on this eagerness to travel with targeted schemes. Here are top scams to avoid!
1/ Unbelievable Travel Offers
There’s no better feeling than receiving a call or email that you’ve won a flight, hotel room or vacation package! But is it too good to be true?
- Do let the call go to voicemail or HANG UP the phone! Any sort of response marks your number available for future calls.
- Do be wary if there is a request for payments to claim your ‘prize’, especially ones that match or exceed the value of the prize itself.
- Do take your time with the information provided by the caller, and refuse to be pressured into opting in for the prize on the spot.
- Do search online to see if the number or company is legitimate or if there are any complaints against them.
Remember even legitimate companies giving a ‘free’ stay or package often have timeshare programs that they are trying to sell once you’ve arrived. There is nothing worse than finding out too late that you’ll have to sit through timeshare presentations instead of enjoying the beach! Adding to that, even if you were drawn to that offer, and you proceed with accepting their terms and conditions, you could already be in trouble. It is likely that you might be able to find assistance from top timeshare exit companies or reputed lawyers. Nevertheless, even in the assistance you seek, there are many out there who can con you by making false promises. So, you need to research thoroughly before making any decision.
Here’s a refresher on how to stop robocalls: 4 Easy Ways to Block Robocalls Fast
2/ Fake travel sites that look real
Scammers are now mimicking entire booking websites with internal search engines and booking calendars to boot. They may even send confirmation emails but not the tickets purchased. Some call as a customer service representative asking you to pay for the price difference because the cost of the tickets you purchased went up!
- Don’t click on links in emails from new or third-party websites you don’t know.
- Do a Google search or use websites like Better Business Bureau (BBB.org).
- Do use the direct link of known sites, make sure the url starts with ‘https://’ and has a locked padlock symbol in the address field.
- Do check the url as scammers are using web addresses that are very similar to legitimate ones.
- Do check for lots of typos or dummy texts that may border on gibberish, which can indicate it’s fake.
- Do read the site’s change or cancellation policy before you book.
- Do use a credit card when making payments.
- Fell for a scam & used a credit card?
- Do call your credit card provider and let them know that you were a victim of fraud.
- Do note The Fair Credit Billing Act gives you 60 days to dispute fraudulent charges directly involved or as a result of the scam.
- Do cancel the compromised card and get issued a new one.
How to protect yourself from clicking malicious links
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3/ Vaccination Passport Scams
With new proof of vaccination requirements for travel, unscrupulous scammers are pretending to enroll individuals into digital vaccine passport or even national vaccination verification programs.
- At this time, the Federal government has no plans to create a digital passport or national vaccine verification system:
- Don’t give these individuals any personal information
- Do report any such communication with the FTC
- Each state has its own plans for vaccination verification with New York state being the only one with concrete plans to date:
- Do reach out to your state officials for updates on vaccination verification programs, if any.
- Most companies have their own vaccination verification requirements and are highly unlikely to have a blanket passport system:
- Proof of vaccination often occurs at the date of travel or service
- Most accept the Centers for Disease Control vaccination card and will detail specifications for verification on their official website.
Find out the most popular legit passport apps here.
4/ TSA PreCheck expediters are risky
Popular and official pre-check programs, such as TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, approval can take anywhere from 2-3 weeks to up to 6+ months for some applicants. It’s no wonder travelers are enticed by the ability to expedite their admittance to such programs. Using any third-party sources to gain admittance to these programs not only gives scammers access to your payment information but at worst, invaluable information such as your passport number or social security number.
- Do use official government websites:
- Government website addresses end with .gov and will have a padlock-locked symbol in the website address field. It would be TSA.gov for The TSA PreCheck and cbp.gov for Global Entry.
- Do pay or schedule the interview process only on the official program website
- Do apply for quicker access using facial recognition to skip the long line at airport security with a CLEAR membership.
5/ Fake Listings are worse than Bait & Switch Vacation Rentals
There are many fraudulent booking sites & listings that take your deposit only for you to find out upon arrival that the rental is not as described or unavailable! Even on reputable sites, renters get lured to pay outside of the booking platform in exchange for discounts. This leads to a higher chance of getting scammed and not being protected under most companies’ cancellation or fraud policies.
- Do a broad search of rooms and rentals around that area to get a sense of average costs. If the price is in the ballpark of the other rentals in that location, then it might be a safe bet.
- Do note if multiple listings show similar costs, features or photos, that’s a strong indication that the listing is fraudulent or inaccurate at best.
- Do read reviews left by past renters and pay special attention to any repetitious reviews or mentions of features missing or not listed in the original rental description, which can indicate that the review may be fake or inaccurate.
- Do check the company’s cancellation & fraud policies before you book.
- Do report to the official rental app or website if a lister asks you to pay outside the rental platform.
- Do pay with a credit card.
- Do Google or check the BBB website to see if the rental company is legitimate and if any complaints have been filed against them.