Summer vacation season is here, and you may see in increase in travel ads and discounted trip while browsing social media or scrolling through your inbox. However, not all these offers are legitimate. Hotel scams alone cost American travelers more than $4 billion a year, according to the American Hotel and Booking Association.
Scammers are ramping up their activity to take advantage of people booking vacations and those hunting for last-minute travel deals. They are targeting your booking deposits and attempting to gain access to your personal information and financial accounts to commit further fraud.
Let’s review how you and your family can avoid becoming the next victim of a vacation booking scam — both online and offline.
Beware of the Signs of a Travel Scam
Preparing for your vacation should be as stress-free as your upcoming time away. Falling for a scam can easily extend beyond the planned trip, and could impact your financial and personal information, compromising your identity.
Consider the following red flags:
- You find yourself in a high-pressure situation where you are asked to make a purchase right away on a rental without seeing a contract or meeting the property lister. This could be in person or through a number of email or text exchanges, or even via the phone.
- You are asked to wire money or purchase gift cards as a form of payment or deposit on lodging, transportation, or excursions.
- You are asked to share unnecessary Personally Identifiable Information (PII) such as your Social Security, driver’s license, or passport number to secure your reservations.
Don’t Fall for Vacation Scam Calls
In 2019, nearly half of all unrecognized mobile phone calls are expected to be scams, according to research from First Orion. One particular caller could claim that you are a winner of an all-inclusive vacation. As exciting as the offer sounds, the fraudster orchestrating this scam is after your identity or your money in return for a nonexistent reservation. They will ask for personal information to book the reservation and your credit card information for a deposit fee.
Registering for the FTC National Do Not Call Registry or using a call blocker app can help reduce the number of unwanted scam and robocalls you receive, but it’s not foolproof. Caller ID Spoofing — where the caller is presenting false information on your caller ID to get you to answer the phone — is increasing as fraudsters look for ways to bypass the call blockers. Protect yourself by never divulging personal or financial information over the phone unless you are the one who has initiated the call to a trusted merchant or a known travel agent.
Look Before You Book
Conducting research around your vacation destination and hotels can reduce the opportunity for criminals to sabotage your summer plans. Keep the following information in mind when planning your hotel stay:
- Ask family and friends for recommendations of hotels they have previously visited.
- Google the name of the company and check for complaints or negative reviews before making a purchase, and review their profile with the Better Business Bureau too.
- Book directly through the hotel’s website to avoid being misled by third-party sites.
- Request to see a contract or cancelation policy before booking your vacation. Review any hidden charges such as excessive processing fees, peak travel charges, extra unidentifiable taxes, or any additional items you would not expect to see from a legitimate travel partner.
By using caution and front-loading your research, you can avoid the hassle of having to find last minute vacation plans and enjoy some rest and relaxation.
Tips to Protect Your Vacation Plans
- Come to your vacation prepared with printed copies of all booking information. Should your reservation go missing in the hotel’s system or you are being asked to pay a higher price, having a record of your booking will help confirm what you paid for.
- Resist clicking on suspicious bargain travel offers. Tempting offers are often a disguise for a phishing scam waiting to capture your information.
- Always use a credit card when booking your vacation. You can dispute your fraudulent booking charges if you are a victim of a scam.