Steer Clear of These Vacation Scams

BENIDORM, SPAIN - JULY 22: People sunbathe at Levante Beach on July 22, 2015 in Benidorm, Spain. Spain has set a new record for visitors, with 29.2 million visitors in June, 4.2% more than the same period in 2014. Spain is also expected to be the main destination of tourists seeking a value-for-money all-inclusive holiday after the Tunisia attack. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Spring is here. The days are longer and warmer. School is nearly over; so many families are starting to plan for a summer vacation. More than 657 million people will travel between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Altogether American families will spend over $78.5 billion in travel. Scammers are quick to latch on to this lucrative market with all kinds of fraudulent vacation offers. So before you become a vacation victim, be sure to do your homework on any offer you receive and be alert to the top vacation rip-offs.

Airline Points Scams. As with most phishing scams, a caller will claim that you have won a contest and are eligible to receive additional airline miles. The caller will then ask you to verify your account by providing personal information or a credit card number. Of course, if you do provide the requested information, no additional points will be awarded, you will lose money and be at risk for identity theft.

Vacation Rental Scams. The internet is full of fake rental listings. Best practice: Use a reputable, local rental company. To search for rentals online, stick with established real estate websites.

Discount Vacation Packages. Be wary of too-good-to-be-true discounts airfare, resorts, or cruise packages. Often the accommodations are less than advertised or you end up having to pay extra fees to enjoy full package benefits.

Free Vacations. Avoid unsolicited, free vacation offers sent by post card, email, or made by telemarketers. Free vacation offers are usually anything but free, often fail to disclose all related fees, and have many restrictions.

Consider these additional tips before booking your next vacation:

  1. When looking for a vacation rental, remember that residential photos are easy to copy. Use Google Maps to view the address to confirm the property you’re renting actually exists.
  2. Get everything in writing before providing any payment. If you attend a presentation for a timeshare or travel club, make sure all verbal promises are provided in writing. Review all terms and conditions carefully before making a decision. Read the cancellation policies before committing to the deal.
  3. Never pay upfront for any vacation package or rental with a wire transfer or prepaid debit card.
  4. Throw away any travel offer that do not clearly disclose the company’s name, location, and contact information.
  5. Watch out for hidden fees like international departure and arrival taxes, processing fees, peak travel charges, late booking fees, departure city surcharges, unauthorized travel insurance, or fuel surcharges. Sources: bbb.org, Statistics Brain, Skift.com

For more information, check out Statistics Brain: Summer Vacation Travel Statistics and Skift: 3 Charts Showing U.S. Travelers’ Plans for Summer Vacations.

BBB News Release: Steer Clear of These Vacation Scams

If you would like to report a scam, call your BBB at 256-533-1640 or go to the BBB Scam Tracker. To find trustworthy businesses, visit bbb.org.