Our Consumer Watch Team is following Travel and Vacation Scams as we approach summer and the height of vacation planning. According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), they have received 91 reports in 2019 of Travel Scams.
“Travel scams can range from flight and vacation packages with prices that are too good to be true, to scammers impersonating reputable travel service businesses and consumers submitting personal information to a fake website,” says Karla Davis, Manager of Community and Public Relations at BBB. “Many of the reports we have received show where consumers are losing over $2,500.”
The Better Business Bureau also says consumers should be wary of timeshare offers and rentals of vacation properties.
Tips to Avoid This Scam:
- Talk with the owner. If you are not using a service that verifies properties and owners, do not negotiate a rental solely by email. Many scammers don’t live locally, so get the owner on the phone and ask detailed questions about the property and local attractions. An owner with vague answers to your questions is a clear red flag.
- Check public records. Investigate on Google or another search engine. Look up the address and use Google Street View to confirm the property matches the one advertised. Also, verify distances to beaches, attractions and airports while on the site.
- Look for reviews and ask for references. While you’re vetting properties, don’t forget to check org and other online reviews. Some vacation rental websites provide an opportunity to rate the rental property as well as the owner or property manager.
If the property you’re considering doesn’t have any online reviews, ask for references and call them. Again, listen for vague answers, which could indicate the reference is simply a friend of the scammer.
- Don’t wire money or use a prepaid debit card. You should never pay for a vacation rental by prepaid debit card or wire transfer. These payments are the same as sending cash. Once you send the money, you have no way to get it back. That’s why scammers depend upon these forms of payment. Paying with a credit card is your best bet to avoid being out money because of a shady vacation rental. If your rental ends up being a scam, you can dispute the charge and dramatically limit your liability.
- If it’s too good to be true it probably isn’t. Scammers lure in targets by guaranteeing sales or promising vacation rentals at low prices. Do your research. If the listing you are considering is much cheaper than others in the area, be suspicious. In general, free online ad services are also going to be more risky than a site with fraud protection features.
To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker.